Anabolic steroids are artificially produced drugs that mimic the effects of the male sex hormone- testosterone. They help in building cellular tissue (and hence, lean muscle mass) through increased protein synthesis.
Anabolic steroids also have androgenic properties that result in the highlighting of male characteristics because of which their official name is AnabolicAndrogenic Steroids (AAS).
Some of the common effects of using anabolic steroids include an increase in muscle mass, lean mass, strength, development of vocal chords, growth of facial hair and in development of male sex features. Overuse and abuse, however, can spell doom and lead to acne, development of male breasts, increased aggression, a high blood pressure and an imbalance of sex hormones in the human body.
First synthesized in the 1930s, anabolics steroids have been used to therapeutically . While the main usage of steroids was to increase muscle and bone density, they have also been used to induce male puberty and to help in chronic waste and degradation brought about by diseases like aids and cancer.
Anabolic steroids have been recognized by the American Council of Sports Medicine as being responsible for the increase of muscle mass when combined with proper diet. The council also recognizes that Anabolic Steroids can also lead to a boost in the performance of athletes when taken at the right time.
Due to these reasons, dope tests conducted on athletes test for permissible limits of these steroids in the athletes’ bodies before allowing them to take part in international sporting events. AAS also happen to be the most commonly found banned drug in athletes’ bodies in all major international sporting events.
The usage of AAS has been banned in major international sporting events because of the considerable advantages they lend to the user over others – commonly considered as cheating.
There are, however, many countries in the world where AAS drugs are allowed to be used in a controlled environment. Such countries usually have black markets where these drugs are sold without prescription- something that has been a constant issue of worry for the policy makers and the regulatory authorities.
History of synthesized AAS:
It was in the late 19th century that medical use and synthesis of testicle extracts had begun. The studies on the strength increasing characteristics of testicle extract were still being pursued at that time.
The first documented isolation of testicle extracts can be dated back to the year 1931 when Adolf Butenandt, a scientist from Marburg, was able to extract about 15 mg of a substance called the androstenone from hundreds of liters of urine. This can be considered to be the first major event in the world of synthesis and extraction of steroids.
Later, as time passed, mutually competing pharmaceutical firms from the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland were heavily funding scientists and researchers to extract testosterone- a more powerful male hormone existent in the testes.
It was in 1935 that three scientists- Karoly Gyula David, E. Dingemanse, J. Freud and Ernst Laqueur were able to lay down the exact steps of synthesizing and isolating the much revered male hormone (which they later named testosterone).
The chemical method to prepare testosterone from cholesterol was established and formalized in August 1935 by another group of scientists. There were a couple of other methods used, and discoveries made in this direction by scientists from all over Europe. The Nobel Prize in Chemistry was given away to Butenandt and Ruzicka in 1939 for their work in this field.
Chemical synthesis of AAS:
It was in the 1940s the Eastern block countries and the Soviet Union started working on development of steroids to bring about enhanced performance in their athletes and to give them a certain advantage over the competition.
This showed results and soon the Soviet athletes were ruling the Olympic standings. Noticing the sudden increase in efficiency, lifting power and strength of Russian athletes, the Americans also started working on development of synthetic steroids to boost their chances at the Olympics. It was under the direction of American Chemist Dr. John Zeigler that the world saw the development of a strong anabolic steroid with low androgenic effects.
The composition was marketed as Dianabol and was an instant success in the commercial market. The FDA gave a nod to the drug and the steroid was used as a cure for burn victims and the elderly people who required to put on weight. It was around that time that the mass gaining effects of this wonder drug were being discovered and soon the drug was a hit in the underground market.
The drug was used mostly by body builder and weight lifters without proper medical guidance and this often led to havoc. The abusers soon started witnessing effects like enlarged prostates, reduced testicles and other common steroid side effects.
Looking at the immense popularity and the negative effects it brought about on the amateur users, the IOC banned AAS in 1976. It was in the 1980s that the IOC decided a strict “out-ofcompetition” rule against athletes found to have used AAS even during their training period. This saw some awareness and sanity towards steroid usage even amongst the amateur users and normalized the usage to manageable proportion. This era saw the
use of certified steroids rolling into the market and drug laws being enforced more stringently against steroid use and abuse.