chapter  2
35 Pages

Drug use and abuse in sport

ByMichele Verroken

The extensive use of medicinal products for the alleviation of the symptoms of disease can be traced back to the Greek physician, Galen, in the third century . Interestingly, it was Galen who reported that ancient Greek athletes used stimulants to enhance their physical performance. At the Ancient Olympic Games, athletes had special diets and were reported to have taken various substances to improve their physical capabilities. The winner of the 200 m sprint at the Olympic Games of 668  was said to have used a special diet of dried figs! (Finlay and Plecket, 1976). The Ancient Egyptians used a drink made from the hooves of asses, which had been ground and boiled in oil, then flavoured with rose petals and rose hips, to improve their performance. In Roman times, gladiators used stimulants to maintain energy levels after injury. Similar behaviour by medieval knights has also been noted (Donohoe and Johnson, 1986). In fact throughout history, there are examples that athletes have sought a magic potion to give them that extra edge, to help them take a short cut to achieving a good performance or to enable them to compete under circumstances when otherwise it might not have been possible, such as injury or illness. Today’s athletes may simply be following previous traditions.