NEW YORK, Sept 29, Reuter: The mythological qualities many” athletes attribute to steroids arose in the 19th century when a European physiologist made an extract from rooster testicles, injected himself with it and raved about the results,

“He was trying to identify what Was later identified as testosterone, the male hormone,” Dr. Joseph Fetto, a Sports Medicine Specialist Who advised the international Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1980 on steroids drug abuse and testing, told reuters in an interview on Wednesday.

“In an ethically dubious experiment I’m drawing a blank on his name but he was a fairly prominent guy — he administered this extract to himself and reported enhanced virility, potency and vigor. The whole myth derived from that anedote.”

Dr. Fetto, a Director of the department of Sports Medicine at New York University Medical Centre, as well as all other experts in the field are unanimous in finding that abuse of anabolic steroids does nothing but harm to athletes physically.

Athletes taking steroids in high doses in the belief they are enhancing their performance and building unusually strong muscles are damaging their hearts, livers, reproductive organs and psyches. Cancer and benign tumors often accompany prolonged abuse, for women, add infertility and even sterility.

Athletes could achieve the same conditions results by working harder, but the drugs —— synthetic testosterone made in the laboratory, give them a “steroid euphoria” under which they believe they train more efficiently.

Steroids, which are widely available on the black market and through a Doctor only by prescription, were not used in a Medical way in the United States until the 1930’s and 40’s. They were used for treatment of severely debilitated World War two concentration camp Victims, patients in the final throes of cancer and others with pituitary disease or injury.

The introduction of steroids to the Athletic world came through bodybuilding in the 1950’s and Fetto maintained that one of that sport’s leading promoters, Joe Weider, was the one who proved you could use them to look bigger, faster.

“He experimented in a backroom way and’ showed steroids had an effect metabolically in pumping up muscles and increasing the aggressive patterns of individuals and in that way could alter the appearance of the body through a steroid euphoria.

“People experience this with all steroids, including cortisone. This euphoria is probably what causes athletes to push a little harder, maybe artificially, maybe other ways.”

Because of the obvious appearance change in bodybuilders, with bigger and more sharply defined muscles particularly in women, people attributed it to an increase in strength. This assumption is not supported by Medical studies, however.

Fetto said most of the best research has been done in east bloc countries in the 1960’s and 1970s and none of it supports. An enhancement of performance when steroids — either injected or in tablet form are used.

“They will increase weight and appearance of muscle size, but this is a function of salt and water retention rather than a buildup of protein. Most of the proportional changes in size result from training. They give artificial motivation.”

‘The American Medical Association council on scientific affairs said in a report last March that steroids apparently are used in all levels of athletic activity, particularly among those in strength sports. “In a survey of 250 weight lifters, almost half admitted using steroids at some time,” it said.

The vast majority of sales of anabolic steroids are on the black market — in body building clubs, training rooms, universities, etc… And U.S, authorities say the North American market for them is worth 100 million dollars a year.

Former British Olympic runner David Jenkins, a silver medalist in 1972, pleaded guilty last November in San Diego to taking part in a ring the U.S. government alleged controlled 70 per cent of that market, getting their product from Mexico.

Jenkins, 36, faces maximum sentences in May 1989 of 10 years in prison and fines of one million dollars,

Ben Johnson, the Canadian sprinter who was stripped of his 100 meters gold medal in Seoul after testing positive for steroids, ironically may be remembered as a hero not a villain.

“Johnson is definitely the fastest man in the world. He didn’t need this,” Fetto said. “But in terms of making people aware of the problem, the hero of the Olympics will be Ben Johnson, a tragic hero.”

Article extracted from this publication >> October 7, 1988