1930s: The Birth of Synthetic Testosterone (your natty mind will explode)

| by Truth Seeker |

source: pixabay.com

Many people claim that testosterone supplementation i.e. steroids was absent from the world until the 1950s and even the 1960s, but numerous documents suggest otherwise. The experimentation with products modifying one’s hormonal profile started almost one century ago regardless of the statements made by dreamers and fake natties.

Below is a timeline of events outlining the inception of synthetic testosterone that the gatekeepers of muscle construction either don’t know themselves or will never share with you because they want you in the loop forever.

Let’s break that chain.

1914 – CIBA Switzerland Begins Intense Research of Sex Hormones

CIBA, a pharmaceutical company based in Basel, initiated intense research of sex hormones in 1914. Between WW1 and WW2, the company developed seven hormonal products many of which were designed to treat female menopause.

In 1931, CIBA launched Androstin – a testicular extract engineered to reverse male menopause. This was the earliest commercially available form of HRT (hormone replacement therapy) produced by a reputable company.

Androstin enjoyed 3 decades of successful sales. It was discontinued in 1961 – long after the birth of synthetic testosterone.

Could something like Androstin elicit “steroid-like” gains?

No. The amount of testosterone in extract-based products was minuscule because the testicles produce testosterone but do not store it. And since muscular growth requires supraphysiological levels of testosterone, it’s very unlikely that people were getting massive biceps from similar medicine.

1935 – The Beginning of Clinical Testosterone

In 1935, a group of scientists led by Ernst Laqueur (1866-1947) working at the University of Amsterdam, isolated 10mg of testosterone from 100kg [220lbs] of bull testes.

(The low quantity of testosterone proves that the primitive versions of HRT could not have been nearly as potent as what we have today.)

The same year, Adolf Butenandt and Gunicr Hanisch synthesize testosterone. Leopold Ruzicka and Albert Wettstein accomplish the same goal. Both groups of scientists submitted crucial research material one after another.

The initial form of testosterone was not effective orally because of the required high intake and the expensive processing. To delay the metabolism of the hormone in the liver, chemists had to alter the molecule of testosterone.

Leopold Ruzicka saved the day. In 1935, he synthesized 17α-methyl-testosterone – a fully viable oral androgen that allowed full absorption. His discovery was accepted with open arms and quickly became available for medical use.

Methyl-testosterone was the first working synthetic anabolic steroid on the market and was already available in 1936. It had downsides (e.g., liver toxicity) but was effective nonetheless.

At this point, I can already hear the dreamers screaming: “But it all happened in Europe. Steroids were not available in the U.S. until Doc Ziegler overhead from a drunk coach that the ‘evil’ Russians are doping. Then he came back to the U.S. and developed Dianabol.”

Sure, Dianabol may have been born in the late 1950s, but methyl-testosterone was available in the U.S. earlier.

(Note: I want to thank Templar – a member of the forum – who pointed me to the following evidence.)

The advert in Popular Science Nov. 1948 {source}

An issue of the American quarterly magazine Popular Science from 1948 contains an ad (the image above) promoting methyltestosterone to men as a form of HRT. The readers are offered “full 30-day supply of male hormone tablets” for USD 5 which amount to about USD 57 today when you account for inflation rates.

If a magazine based in New York was advertising methyl-testosterone to civilians in 1948, American chemists had to be more than acquainted with the steroid advancements made in Europe.

1936: The Birth of Testosterone Propionate – The King of the 40s and 50s

Another way to render testosterone clinically effective was to make it suitable for intramuscular injections through esterification. This method gave us Testosterone Propionate.

In 1936, Ciba released Perandren – a form of testosterone propionate.

The same year, Schering AG Germany came with its own product – Proviron.

In 1937, Schering AG Germany switched the name of its previous testosterone propionate from Proviron to Testoviron and put the drug on the market.

Testosterone propionate dominated the steroid scene until the 1960s when longer-acting testosterone esters like testosterone enanthate, testosterone cypionate, and testosterone undecanoate appeared.

Both Ciba and Schering advertised their products as male boosters similar to HRT.

For instance, Ciba promoted Perandren with vivid images and provocative texts such as:

“The male decline…is a period of sexual, particularly prostatic insufficiency…well recognized both by physical and mental aberrations. The rational therapeutic attack is…Perandren.“

“But was testosterone propionate available in America during the late 1930s,” asks the dreamer.

Yes, according to the Federal Register /Vol. 63, No.85/.

A scanned copy of this document contains the following bit of information:

Testosterone propionate 2% ointment (Perandren Ointment) was the subject of NDA 0-0499 held by Ciba Pharmaceutical Co. This NDA was submitted to FDA on January 24, 1939, and under the procedures of the act at that time, the NDA “became effective” (the statutory equivalent of “approval” under the act as it appears now) on March 7, 1939, 23 years before passage of the 1962 amendments to the act. {source}

In short, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved Ciba’s product at the beginning of 1939.

Therefore, the claims that steroids were not available in the USA before the 1950s are unsubstantiated.

Why is this important?

Those documents legitimize the presence of potent anabolic steroids in Europe and America during the 40s and beyond. Yet many dreamers continue to think that all bodybuilders predating Arnold were ultra-natural which is highly unlikely given the substances available at the time.

If you find yourself in an argument with someone on this topic, refer them to this article or the library cited below.


Rothman, D. and Rothman, S., 2013. The Pursuit Of Perfection. New York: Vintage Books.

Hohl, A., Testosterone: From Basic To Clinical Aspects. 1st ed. Springer.

Bhasin, S., Storer, T., Berman, N., Callegari, C., Clevenger, B., Phillips, J., Bunnell, T., Tricker, R., Shirazi, A. and Casaburi, R., 1996. The Effects of Supraphysiologic Doses of Testosterone on Muscle Size and Strength in Normal Men. New England Journal of Medicine, 335(1), pp.1-7.

Llewellyn, W., 2017. ANABOLICS. Molecular Nutrition.

Nieschlag, E., Behre, H. and Nieschlag, S., n.d. Testosterone: Action – Deficiency – Substitution. 4th ed. Cambridge University Press.

Dettwiler, W., 2014. Novartis: How A Leader in Healthcare Was Created Out of Ciba, Geigy And Sandoz. Profile Books; Main edition.

Multiple Authors. Popular Science 1948 November.

Federal Register /Vol. 63, No.85/ Monday. May 4, 1998 /Notices

Thieme, D. and Hemmersbach, P., 2013. Doping in Sports. Berlin: Springer Berlin.

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  1. Oldboy

    Holy shit! Better than Wikipedia.

  2. A

    Amazing article. I wish one day you prepare an article on the shady siblings of steroids, that are prohormones. I would be really interested in what research went into them, as most of the prohormone formulas of the 2000’s were various clones or modified molecules of real gear. I really doubt that many of the operators of those fly-by-the-night companies that marketed them had any education in chemistry. While the chemicals were probably bulk imports from Asia, who in first place came with the chemical formulas? Some of the compounds were experimental steroids never intended for human consumption, left orphaned during research in the 60’s or so. Interesting stuff.

  3. Stan

    Wiki says: “Research on the action of testosterone received a brief boost in 1889, when the Harvard professor Charles-Édouard Brown-Séquard (1817–1894), then in Paris, self-injected subcutaneously a “rejuvenating elixir” consisting of an extract of dog and guinea pig testicle.”
    And taking into account how eager people nowadays are to try various elixirs extracted from antelope hooves under the fool moon just based on some rumours or beliefs, before any scientific evidence, I would expect the most fearless athletes to have experimented with such elixirs long before the 30s. Modern researchers often look for new substances in plants and extract that are known to have been consumed by such believers. So the date of a scientific discovery might be quite an overestimation of the starting date of the actual use.

    1. Truth Seeker Post author

      True. But the amount of actual testosterone in that elixir was too little to induce muscle growth. 🙂

      1. Stan

        Perhaps. But for every scientific experiment, one will probably find many examples of amateur use in concentrations many times higher the ones used in the experiment because “we only live once” and “you have to try harder and take risks if you want to be at the top”. Especially if one calls a mixture “rejuvenating elixir”:) So even though the concentrations can’t have been anywhere near today’s, the claim “before 1930, athletes were 100% natural because hormones hadn’t been discovered yet” is rather questionable to me.

  4. lemmings

    Great article, love the amount of research in it.

  5. elkoraco

    Dude, this Covid19 really did wonders for your style of writing. You’re all fact checking and throwing tiny poison darts at the industry instead of giving too much opinion. You’ve also shortened your articles substantially. I’d say your last five or six articles are light years ahead of your previous work, at least on the blog. Great work!

    1. Truth Seeker Post author

      Thanks for the support, elkoraco.

  6. Gorila

    Top tier content m8! i wish you made an article on this greg doucette guy. He doesnt claim natural today, but he claims he is on hrt when he takes 200mg per week. That is not natural levels at all

    Plus hes natural status from before is questionable as well. Im so tired of the fitness community, everyone is juiced up to their eye balls and then claim otherwise

    Keep the great content coming! and yes , Steve Reeves wasnt natural, he probably juiced a lot

    1. Truth Seeker Post author

      Thank you for the support, Gorila. I will try to deliver more articles in the future.

  7. Eja

    Arthur saxon, eugen sandow..
    Natty? I think No.

    Amphetamine was created in 1887.. search on wikipedia.

    Amphetamine makes them natty like Zyzzbrah ! LOL

    1. Truth Seeker Post author

      How do you know he took amphetamines?

  8. John L Sullivan

    Something existing and the same thing being commonly available and in general usage are two different things. Because some form of testosterone may have existed as early as the 1930’s and therefore concluding that it was in common usage is like saying that since the Wright brothers invented the airplane in the early 1900’s that air travel was commonplace soon after.

    The 1930’s was the height of the depression in the US. People didn’t have money for food let alone testosterone so that you could lift weights and maybe win a trophy and the modern equivalent of $500.

    The 1940’s saw World War II and subsequently there was widespread rationing of food, gasoline and all forms of pharmaceuticals. It’s highly unlikely that there was widespread availability of testosterone at this time as well.

    Also the old ads claiming to be selling testosterone don’t prove anything. We don’t have any idea what kind of snake oil that they may have been peddling. I find it hard to believe that they could have been capable of producing testosterone in the 1940’s for essentially the same cost as today.

    Could some of the pre-1950’s guys have been experimenting with testosterone? Possibly. But to conclude that because some form of testosterone existed pre-1950 that every well built pre-1950’s bodybuilder must have been using is fallacious thinking.

    1. Truth Seeker Post author

      You really didn’t read the article. It’s all there. You can also check out the references.

      But it’s not my goal to convince you. At the end of the day, arguing is a waste of time. People will always believe whatever they want. Even when there is hard evidence.

      I did my best to present the facts. I have certainly dedicated a lot more time to research than it took you to post this comment.

      Be my guest. Get as big as those guys naturally. I am saying this from the bottom of my heart.

  9. Frank

    I don’t really care whether athletes in the 30s and 40s took steroids or not so I don’t think I’m biased but i will point out a few things where i think you over-interpreting your research.

    1) just because a drug is approved does not mean the company goes on to market it, many many drugs are approved and registered and never brought to market
    2) the development and sale of a drug needs to reach a certain scale before it can leak onto the black market, it’s doubtful that anything even close to this scale would have existed then (it could be argued that it wasn’t a black market, fair enough, but selling alleged roids by mail order is pretty grey area even if legal)
    3) who know what the fuck was in those pills they were advertising as testosterone

    Love your work!

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