Testosterone was discovered in 1935 by German scientists and was isolated soon after that. By 1940, the hormone was already being suggested as a treatment for depression in men, but that use soon fell out of favor for reasons that are unclear. Persistent rumors are that forms of testosterone were administered to Nazi troops in an effort to make them both stronger and more aggressive. This use by the German infantry, however, remains speculative because it has never been officially documented. On the other hand, among the many medications that Adolph Hitler himself used was a testosterone preparation. Did the fuhrer suffer from 'roid rage? The first mention of the possible use of testosterone for athletic purposes came with the publication of a book in the mid-1940s. In that book, the author suggests that testosterone could be a real asset to athletes because of its strength and muscle-building properties. Many people insist that this information was embraced by bodybuilders of the era, but there is zero evidence of this.
In fact, the beginnings of major athletic use of testosterone are credited to Soviet Olympic weightlifters in the mid-1950s. One physician who attended a weightlifting meet in Russia found out about the use of testosterone among the Soviet lifters and opted to introduce it to American lifters, so as to keep the competitive field level. But rather than use testosterone itself, he choose instead to supply a select group of lifters with oral analogs of testosterone, known as anabolic steroids. Champion bodybuilder, Bill Pearl, who won both the Mr.America (1953) and Mr.Universe titles (1953, 1961, 1967, 1971), admitted using an oral steroid called Nilevar in 1959, which he claimed to have obtained from a local veterinary college. Pearl always downplayed the effect that using the drug had on him. But if you look at photos of him from 1960 on, the change in his physique was remarkable. He went from looking like a fairly muscular swimmer to a heavily muscled champion bodybuilder. Steroid use took off soon after the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo and hasn't abated ever since.
As the use of anabolic steroids burgeoned in sports, the medical profession decided to examine the effects of these drugs on health. The initial studies of steroids in the medical journals concluded that steroids produced mostly water gains, with nearly no actual muscle gains promoted by the drugs. This became the official position of the medical establishment: Anabolic steroids merely produce bloat, but no actual muscle. In the meantime, athletes in various sports who used steroids were gaining significant amounts of muscle and were breaking world records in the process. The disconnect between the medical position and the real-world results can be explained by the fact that the studies in which steroids were examined involved supplying doses used to treat the disease--which was a fraction of what athletes were using. So, the studies showed . . .