Anabolic Steroids History – Who Discovered Testosterone and When?

Who discovered testosterone?

Officially, the history of steroids began in the 1930s, when the German chemist Adolf Butenandt and his team managed to obtain 15 mg of a synthetic form of estrogen and androsterone.

For this, they needed more than 10 thousand liters of urine. In 1935, this chemist first synthesized a synthetic version of the hormone testosterone (1).

Over the next five years, scientists sponsored by pharmaceutical companies found effective ways to synthesize the hormone testosterone in large quantities.

The initial goal was to use steroids as a treatment for depression. Regulate testosterone levels to find a balance between cortisol and serotonin.

Years later, the military used synthetic versions of testosterone to empower soldiers.

History of steroids

The history of steroids continues during the Second World War. Where they found that synthetic forms of testosterone could enhance soldiers to increase their capabilities, it was a simple and effective way to improve physical performance.

The side effects and consequences of taking them were not yet understood.

In 1958, the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) registered testosterone for the first time under the company Ciba Pharmaceuticals: Dianabol (5)

It was used to treat people with low testosterone, especially older adults. A curious fact in history is that steroids were sold in pharmacies without a prescription.

More than 40 testosterone analogs appeared on the market: Stanozolol, Winstrol, Nerobol, Naposim, DBOL, etc.

Only 20 years later (in 1976), the first prohibitions began to be made based on analyzing the consumption of anabolic steroids in professional athletes.

History of steroids in Germany

The Nazi government forced Butenandt and Ruzicka to reject the Nobel Prize for the discovery of testosterone. Other peoples were probably considered to have no right to judge the success of Greater Reich scientists. However, Butenandt and Ruzicka continued their research work.

According to some sources, German soldiers received doses of testosterone to increase their aggressiveness, and concentration camps became “laboratories” to experiment with it in humans. It has been confirmed that Adolf Hitler’s doctor prescribed testosterone injections. (2)

History of steroids in the USSR and USA

After the fall of the Third Reich, the Soviet Union showed interest in the new hormone. Soviet athletes were the first to use steroids to increase muscle mass and strength. The USSR and Eastern European countries used steroids to improve performance in bodybuilding competitions (4).

The response from the western bloc was immediate; Dr. John Ziegler, who worked with the United States Olympic team, obtained a testosterone analog with fewer side effects. Methandrostenolone.

Later the Olympic authorities decreed the use of steroids as illegitimate and unfair. For obvious reasons, the use of steroids was regulated with anti-doping analysis in international sports.

At what point in history were anabolic steroids banned?

Due to an increase in steroids in adolescents and their potential side effects. In 1988, laws were created criminalizing the possession and sale of steroids. A few years later, steroids were classified as a strictly controlled substance in most countries. (4)  

The distribution of synthetic testosterone is controlled to this day.

The use of steroids has serious health contraindications. Much of the damage becomes apparent after years of service.

Research has shown that anabolic steroids increase the size of the heart and liver, increasing the risk of coronary heart disease and liver disease and promoting the formation of cancerous tumors. (5.6)

In addition, the use of synthetic versions is associated with an increased risk of bigorexia.

Steroids have been promoted for competitive reasons—the desire to win sports competitions without considering the side effects of anabolic steroids.

In the early history of steroids, the goal was not to shape an ideal body but to combat diseases associated with testosterone.


  • The history of steroids began in the 1930s when a group of German scientists isolated the first testosterone molecule.
  • Who discovered testosterone? The German chemist Adolf Butenandt and his team were the first to synthesize it.
  • The goal was medical: to cure diseases related to an inability of the body to synthesize testosterone.
  • Steroids were initially freely distributed and were used by American soldiers to enhance performance.
  • An increase in the use of steroids in adolescents and the discovery of their side effects; resulted in its massive ban—a pivotal moment in the history of steroids.


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