Timeline of Doping in the Modern Olympic Era

August 11, 2016 Updated: August 12, 2016

Please scroll through the timeline above, or simply scroll down for the text-only version. 

1904–1930: Alcohol, cocaine, strychnine, caffeine, and nitroglycerin are commonly used stimulants—often supplied by coaches.

1904: St. Louis Olympic marathon winner Thomas Hicks nearly dies from drinking a brandy-strychnine mix.

1928: International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF), which governs track and field, becomes first body to prohibit doping.

1950s: Athletes use amphetamines to combat fatigue and improve endurance, following example of WWII soldiers.

1950s: First reports emerge of systematic use of anabolic steroids by Soviet weightlifters.

1958: Dr. John Bosley Ziegler, “godfather of steroids,” creates anabolic steroid Dianabol. Decades later, he says he wishes he never had.

Aug. 26, 1960: Danish cyclist Knud Jensen becomes first Olympian to die from doping during competition, collapsing during a time trial; he was taking amphetamines.

1967: International Olympic Committee (IOC) sets up Medical Commission to fight doping, after U.K. cyclist Tom Simpson dies during Tour de France from taking amphetamines.

1968: U.S. decathlete Dr. Tom Waddell says about a third of the U.S. track and field team used anabolic steroids at the 1968 pre-Olympic training camp.

October 1968: Swedish pentathlete Hans-Gunnar Liljenwall becomes first athlete to be stripped of an Olympic medal after testing positive for excessive alcohol in Mexico City.

Late 1960s: Blood doping emerges as new aid for endurance athletes like distance runners, cyclists, and cross-country skiers.

1972: Munich Games sees first large-scale drug testing for narcotics and stimulants; seven athletes are disqualified.

1975: Anabolic steroids are added to IOC ban list after a reliable test is developed.

1976: Eleven athletes at the Montreal Games test positive for anabolic steroids; questions arise over the formidable East German female swimmers.

1980: A new test for synthetic testosterone is retroactively applied to all samples from 1980 Moscow Games; 20 percent of athletes—including 16 gold medalists—test positive; no penalties are applied.

1984: Human growth hormone is the new anabolic steroid at the L.A. Olympics. After the games, 24 members of the U.S. men’s cycling team admit to blood doping.

Sept. 27, 1988: Canadian Ben Johnson is stripped of his gold medal in the 100-meter sprint and sent home from Seoul for using anabolic steroids. He is later banned for life after another positive test in 1993.

Dec. 3, 1991: Twenty former East German coaches admit to two decades of state-sponsored anabolic steroid doping, involving over 10,000 athletes. Many of the female athletes later have children with birth defects.

Early 1990s: Copying the East Germans, Chinese women suddenly start breaking records, especially in swimming, track and field, and weightlifting. In the 1990s, 29 track and field athletes and 19 swimmers test positive for anabolic steroids.

Nov. 10, 1999: World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is established.

2000: Sydney Olympic Games are dubbed “The Dirty Games” as widespread doping is highlighted, along with the IOC’s continued ineffectiveness to curb it.

Oct. 1, 2000: U.S. Anti-Doping Agency is established.

2002: Anti-doping expert Dr. Don Catlin identifies norbolethone—the first designer anabolic steroid.

April 21, 2003: Dr. Wade Exum, former head of U.S. Olympic Committee’s anti-doping program, reveals to Sports Illustrated that U.S. athletes, including sprinter Carl Lewis, failed drug tests, but the committee cleared them anyway.

June 2003: A whistleblower exposes Bay Area designer drug lab BALCO for selling an undetectable steroid, The Clear (THG), to top athletes from 1988 until 2002.

Nov. 7, 2003: U.K. sprinter Dwain Chambers gets life ban for positive THG test; he loses his medals and his 100-meter record is wiped. Later, the ban is overturned and he competes at the 2012 Games.

2004: WADA takes over prohibited list from IOC and implements World Anti-Doping Code—adopted by more than 600 sports organizations.

2003: Caffeine is removed from ban list.

Oct. 5, 2007: U.S. sprinter Marion Jones admits to using THG and is stripped of three gold and two bronze medals from the 2000 Games; relay race teammates also lose their medals. Jones served six months in jail for lying to federal prosecutors.

Jan. 26, 2008: International Rowing Federation bans all Russian rowers for one year and doping athletes for two years.

July 31, 2008: Seven Russians banned before Beijing Olympics for substituting urine samples.

Aug. 2, 2015: Leaked blood test data suggests IAAF failed to take sufficient action against athletes with suspicious test results—including 55 gold medal winners.

May 2016: Report exposes state-sponsored doping from highest levels in Moscow.

July 2016: 118 Russians are banned from Rio Games, as is the entire Russian Paralympic team.

Team Russia athletes for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. (David Ramos/Getty Images)
Team Russia athletes for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. (David Ramos/Getty Images)
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