Humans are a naturally competitive species. As long as we have had sports to compete in, athletes have tried all kinds of things to be the best. Athletes have used various substances and potions to improve athletic performance since the beginning of civilization. The ancient Greeks ate sesame seeds, the Australian aborigines chewed the pituri plant, Norse warriors ate hallucinogenic mushrooms, and ancient cultures around the world had similar traditions.
In the 1860s, a group of swimmers in Amsterdam were charged with taking drugs to speed up their races. For the next 80 years or so, athletes who wanted to cheat focused mostly on stimulants to speed themselves up.
In 1935, the male hormone testosterone was first synthesized. During World War II, German soldiers were reportedly given testosterone to increase their performance and aggressiveness on the battlefield.
In the 1940s testosterone began to be widely used in competitive sports, but the dangers of loading up on testosterone were not yet clear. In the 1952 Olympics, the Russian weightlifting and wrestling teams dominated those sports, at least in part due to synthetic testosterone.
Scientists all over the world worked to formulate better performance-enhancing drugs during the 1950s and beyond. Still, in the early days, there was not much awareness of the dangers such substances could pose to users. By 1958 a U.S. pharmaceutical firm developed anabolic steroids. Soon, the unpleasant and dangerous side effects became obvious, but by then the athletic community had access to the drugs.
From the 1950s into the 1970s, both rumors and facts of performance-enhancing drug use combined to increase actual use. Many athletes seemed to believe they had to use in order to remain competitive. Those athletes who require bulk and strength to be competitive, like bodybuilders, football players, and shotput throwers, were the first to abuse anabolic-androgenic steroids. During the 1970's demand for anabolic-androgenic steroids grew as athletes in speed-dependent sports discovered some of the potential benefits to using anabolic-androgenic steroids. For one thing, the drugs allow athletes to train harder because muscle strains and tears repair themselves faster.
All of this "doping" was against the sports organizations' rules and against the law. In 1964, the International Olympic Committee first published a list of banned drugs and practices for athletes, but the IOC did not ban steroids until 1975.
In the 1980's, steroid use continued in a sort of "gray market" area. Some elite-level athletes continued to use. Many non-competitive athletes and bodybuilders began to use steroids during this period, as well.
The first known case of a bodybuilder contracting AIDS from sharing a needle for steroid use was reported in 1984. In 1988 the sale of anabolic-androgenic steroids for non-medical purposes was illegal under the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988. In 1990, possession of anabolic-androgenic steroids without a prescription was made illegal in the U.S.