A Powerfully Concentrated History of Performance Enhancement

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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8th century BC Greek Olympians load up on mushrooms, herbs, and wine to boost speed.

6th century BC Indian surgeon performs the world’s first rhinoplasty (nose job).

1599 Vatican condemns plastic surgery for tinkering with God’s creation.

1675 King Charles II bans coffee for inspiring jittery, seditious talk.

1888 British dictionary defines “doping” as “a mixture of opium and alcohol given to race horses.”

1889 Pitcher “Pud” Galvin injects himself with ground animal testicles, wins 364 games.

1904 American marathon runner wins Olympic gold while chugging egg whites, brandy, and strychnine.

1940s Nazis give their troops amphetamines. So do the Japanese, British, and Americans.

1966 The Rolling Stones release “Mother’s Little Helper.”

1969 Track & Field News hails steroids as the “breakfast of champions.”

1973 The Six Million Dollar Man debuts; today, he’d be worth $29 million.

1983 A presenter at a urology convention drops trou to demo his new impotence treatment, a Viagra precursor.

1996 Arnold Schwarzenegger says he has “no regrets” about steroid use: “It was what I had to do to compete.”

1997 Former East German shot-put champ has a female-to-male sex change after years of artificial testosterone use.

2003 Olympics removes caffeine from its list of banned substances.

2004 Viagra sponsors online fantasy baseball game “Clutch Performances.”

2006 Disgraced sprinter Ben Johnson promotes Cheetah energy drink: “I Cheetah all the time.”

2007 Provigil spotted in Britney Spears’ purse.

2008 FDA okays Latisse, a glaucoma medicine, as the first prescription drug for “longer, fuller, darker lashes.”

2008 US Olympic Committee launches “Don’t Be an Asterisk” anti-steroids campaign.

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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