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When do you think steroids were first used by baseball players?

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  • When do you think steroids were first used by baseball players?

    I was thinking about this the other day, when do you think steroids were first used by baseball players. Everyone calls Canseco "The Godfather" of steroids, and he may be that, but were there any users before him? I do remember that pitcher Tom House admitted to dabbling with steroids in the 1970's. Here's how I see it:

    1970's: Few players/pitchers dabbled with steroids, but most, if not all, probably didn't know how to use them properly to gain any benefit.
    1980's: Steroids started to become more prevalent, and players were starting to reap from it's benefits.
    1990's: Steroid use was in full force in baseball
    2000's: Same as 1990's

  • #2
    The day after they were available.
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    • #3
      Steroid use in baseball probably began in the 1960s, just as it did in other sports such as football. It is known that amphetamines were being used in the 1960s. Yes, I understand that the effects are different, but I figure anyone who was willing to use amphetamines would also be willing to try other drugs in an attempt to improve their performance.

      Steroids were probably slower to be accepted by baseball players because it was generally thought that having too much muscle would hinder a player. The idea was that one could become "muscle-bound", that too much muscle would make a player lose speed and agility, that it might hinder a batter's swing or a pitcher's throwing motion. Since size and strength are not as big an advantage in baseball as in football, powerlifting, or bodybuilding, it was slower to catch on. I really think Tom House is exaggerating regarding steroid use in the 1970s, but then I wasn't in the clubhouse with those players and am in no position to know. I just believe that those who used them are likely to defend their use by saying that they were only doing what everyone else was doing. I think it is also important to point out that before 1981 you could get steroids without even a prescription, as they were not yet a controlled substance. This is similar to amphetamine use in the 1960s, since amphetamines were uncontrolled before 1965.

      Perversely, I think that when steroid use was being investigated by the Olympics in the 1970s it led to increased use. In the 1960s steroids were still a "secret weapon" known only to insiders, in the 1970s everyone knew about them. While steroid testing began in the 1972 Olympics they were not specifically banned until 1975.
      With the Olympic ban came the cat and mouse game between users and testers, and techniques were developed for masking steroids or cycling on and off steroids to evade a positive test, and the development of new steroids for which no test existed. Just as steroid development did not stand still, it was discovered that steroids could be used in combination with other substances to further enhance muscle development. Baseball players hitting the gyms would have access to people who knew this, and the rising salaries of the free agent era allowed players to spend the offseason working out rather than working another job. Gradually the belief that steroids were only useful to add strength faded. The nail in that coffin was probably the Ben Johnson incident. Johnson was a record-holding sprinter who tested positive in the 1988 Olympics.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by stevebogus View Post
        Steroid use in baseball probably began in the 1960s, just as it did in other sports such as football. It is known that amphetamines were being used in the 1960s. Yes, I understand that the effects are different, but I figure anyone who was willing to use amphetamines would also be willing to try other drugs in an attempt to improve their performance.

        Steroids were probably slower to be accepted by baseball players because it was generally thought that having too much muscle would hinder a player. The idea was that one could become "muscle-bound", that too much muscle would make a player lose speed and agility, that it might hinder a batter's swing or a pitcher's throwing motion. Since size and strength are not as big an advantage in baseball as in football, powerlifting, or bodybuilding, it was slower to catch on. I really think Tom House is exaggerating regarding steroid use in the 1970s, but then I wasn't in the clubhouse with those players and am in no position to know. I just believe that those who used them are likely to defend their use by saying that they were only doing what everyone else was doing. I think it is also important to point out that before 1981 you could get steroids without even a prescription, as they were not yet a controlled substance. This is similar to amphetamine use in the 1960s, since amphetamines were uncontrolled before 1965.

        Perversely, I think that when steroid use was being investigated by the Olympics in the 1970s it led to increased use. In the 1960s steroids were still a "secret weapon" known only to insiders, in the 1970s everyone knew about them. While steroid testing began in the 1972 Olympics they were not specifically banned until 1975.
        With the Olympic ban came the cat and mouse game between users and testers, and techniques were developed for masking steroids or cycling on and off steroids to evade a positive test, and the development of new steroids for which no test existed. Just as steroid development did not stand still, it was discovered that steroids could be used in combination with other substances to further enhance muscle development. Baseball players hitting the gyms would have access to people who knew this, and the rising salaries of the free agent era allowed players to spend the offseason working out rather than working another job. Gradually the belief that steroids were only useful to add strength faded. The nail in that coffin was probably the Ben Johnson incident. Johnson was a record-holding sprinter who tested positive in the 1988 Olympics.
        Good post. I think that the 60's are the tipping point not so much regarding the development of the drug but as relating to the rise of college baseball.

        The collegiate drug culture of the 1960's opened athletes' minds to the alleged performance enhancing properties of medication. Once the possibility of drugs helping rather than harming is considered it is a short leap to usage.

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        • #5
          they were first used July 3rd, 1967

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          • #6
            A lot of speculation goes back to the likes of Brian Downing and Reggie Jackson as being among the first noticeable users.

            Alright, Downing more so than Jackson, but I've heard a radio host saying that Reggie could be doing a little protesting too much when Jackson ripped into (IIRC) Jason Giambi.
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            • #7
              Wasn't there much made about how much Downing's body changed over his career? At the time it was attributed to Downing being one of the first major leaguers to have a serious weight training program.
              Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Honus Wagner Rules View Post
                Wasn't there much made about how much Downing's body changed over his career? At the time it was attributed to Downing being one of the first major leaguers to have a serious weight training program.
                The 1st. MLBers that I can recall being known for weight training were Steve Carlton under the tutelage of Gus Hoeffling and Steve Garvey. I can recall Ralph Kiner calling Garvey "Popeye" for Garvey's large forearms.

                Yes, Brian Downing was known for weight training. A few years down the road Darren Daulton was known for the same. I can recall a HEALTH AND FITNESS profile on Daulton highlighting his use of circuit training to bring aerobic benefits to resistance work.

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                • #9
                  I imagine the first uses were by prescription. (Full disclosure: I'm taking prednisone for sudden deafness syndrome. It's not helping, but my ops+ is getting well.)

                  Prednisone was on the market in 1955. I don't know, but I wouldn't be surprised if a good bit of steroid medication was used for sore arms and the like, much as players self-medicated later on.
                  Indeed the first step toward finding out is to acknowledge you do not satisfactorily know already; so that no blight can so surely arrest all intellectual growth as the blight of cocksureness.--CS Peirce

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Matthew C. View Post
                    The day after they were available.
                    This. Too tempting with that much money involved not to mention just plain competitiveness.

                    That said I would bet it became much more prevalent with the advent of free agency and rise in salaries. Also the internationalization of the game where a slight advantage could mean getting rich and setting your family up for life or going back to the slums in the Dominican.

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                    • #11
                      Although we've mentioned it before in other threads, Pud Galvin injected himself with performance enhancing drugs back in the 1880s.

                      http://baseball.dailyskew.com/2009/0...eball-old.html

                      I imagine that's pretty much the first.
                      "Here's a crazy thought I've always had: if they cut three fingers off each hand, I'd really be a great hitter because then I could level off better." Paul Waner (lifetime .333 hitter, 3,152 lifetime hits.

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