The use of performance enhancing drugs such as caffeine, cocaine, alcohol, and even strychnine, have been used by athletes for decades. Here is a brief timeline of PED use in competitive sports.
1886 – Welsh cyclist Arthur Linton dies during a race from Bordeaux to Paris, allegedly from typhoid fever. Information indicates he may have been a casualty of trimethyl (a combination of alcohol, strychnine, heroin, caffeine, and cocaine).
1904 – Thomas Hicks ingests strychnine during the Olympic Marathon in St. Louis. Other items given to Mr. Hicks throughout the race included raw eggs and brandy. Hicks won the gold medal.
1954 – A Soviet weightlifting team doctor reveals to Dr. John Ziegler that he used testosterone injections on his weightlifters. Dr. Ziegler begins research on a substance that will provide the benefits of testosterone injections without the side-effects.
1958 – Ciba Pharmaceuticals releases John Ziegler's anabolic steroid product under the name Dianabol.
1960 – George Walsh exposes the use of drugs in an article called Our Drug-Happy Athletes in Sports Illustrated Magazine.
1973 – East German women sweep 10 out of 14 gold medals at the first world swimming championships. Coaches involved have since admitted giving the athletes PEDs.
1975 – Anabolic steroids are banned by the International Olympic Committee.
1983 – Chicago weightlifter Jeff Michaels and three other weightlifters are stripped of gold medals by the Pan Am Games authorities when they test positive for banned anabolic steroids.
1988 – Olympic sprinter Ben Johnson loses a gold medal when he tests positive for PED use.
1990 – Steroids are classified as schedule III controlled substances by the U.S. Congress.
1992 – At the age of 43, NFL player Lyle Alzado dies of brain cancer, which he suspected was caused by his use of PEDs over a period of 20 years, including HGH.
1998 – Olympic swimmer Michelle Smith is suspended for four years after testing positive for banned drugs.
1999 – The International Olympic Committee forms the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
2002 – Ken Caminiti admits to earlier use of steroids during his career in baseball.
2004 – Documents from lawsuits and the East German police indicate that between 500 and 2000 East German athletes who are taking part in a doping program are suffering from heart disease, tumors, cancers and other serious medical conditions.
2005 – Jose Canseco's book Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits, & How Baseball Got Big, is published, detailing his own use of steroids.
2007 – The Report to the Commissioner of Baseball of an Independent Investigation into the Illegal Use of Steroids and Other Performance Enhancing Substances by Players in Major League Baseball, otherwise known as the "Mitchell Report," is released.
2008 – Roger Clemens and Brian McNamee testify before the U.S. Congress. McNamee claims to have injected Clemens with PEDs during his time as Clemens' personal trainer.
2010 – Mark McGwire admits to taking steroids in 1998 when he broke the home run record, held at the time by Roger Maris.
2012 – Shot putter Nadzeya Ostapchuk was stripped of her Olympic gold medal after testing positive for steroid use.
Many sports associations are now involved in monitoring and testing players for banned PED use. Currently, the NBA, NFL, and MLB all have anti-doping programs.
The NBA began drug testing in 1983. They now screen for over 100 banned substances. Tests are limited to what can be found in a urine sample, which makes some drugs difficult to detect. Players can be tested up to six times a year, and twice during the off season. Since there is no investigative division of the NBA, any leads concerning drug use by athletes are taken very seriously, but are difficult to pursue.
The NBA does not test for HGH, however discussions in 2013 indicated a blood test for HGH may soon be added to the NBA anti-doping program.
The NFL began drug testing in 1987 and relies on urine samples to find PED users. Blood testing for HGH began in 2014. Tests are frequent, with 10 players selected at random from each team every week.
The large number of tests and frequent testing make it difficult for players to use PEDs without being caught. In 2006 Shawne Merriman (San Diego Chargers) faced a 4-game suspension. In 2010 Brian Cushing (Houston Texans) received the same penalty. Santonio Holmes (New York Jets) and Justin Blackmon (Jacksonville Jaguars) both received penalties after testing positive for banned substances in 2013.
Starting in 2003, MLB began conducting a battery of tests on players using urine and blood screening. MLB uses more costly carbon isotope ratio (CIR) blood tests to detect testosterone abuse. In 2013 they began testing for HGH. MLB uses a team of investigators that look into allegations of drug use, and can quickly follow up on leads.
MLB players found in violation of the banned PED list have also included Ryan Braun (65-game suspension), Manny Ramirez and Melky Cabrera (50-game suspensions). In 2012 more than 30 minor leaguers and free agents tested positive for one or more banned substances. In 2013 Alex Rodriguez was suspended for the 2014 season for steroid use said to be from 2010-2011. HGH testing in 2013 found Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta, Everth Cabrera and nine others in violation of the anti-doping policy. All received 50-game suspensions.
While critics claim MLB anti-doping can be improved by adding more off-season testing, the current multi-pronged approach to testing, and willingness to pay for higher quality testing procedures like CIR, gives MLB what many regard as one of professional sports’ strongest anti-PED programs.