What year were steroids first known to be used in Major League Baseball?

This is a great question. You’d be surprised to learn that Jaime Huélamo , a cyclist from Spain was stripped of a bronze medal for doping in the 1972 olympics. He was caught using Coramine, a stimulant that has a long list of side effects. You wouldn’t think of it at first, but steroids began their In the NFL, Steroids began to arise in the mid-seventies. The 1972 olympics also saw East German and Russian women show up looking more like Sherman-Tanks than women. By 1976, the ugly legacy of steroids were making their way into American sports . Lyle Alzado became the poster-child for steroids in pro-sports. But testing in the NFL and MLB only addressed caffeine and marijuana. Cocaine came next, but the tests were always done on various dates and clearly not taken seriously.

The following was a widely reported story at the time, but it seems unbelievable.
In baseball – There is an an old story that includes an account of Babe Ruth administering to himself an injection of an extract from sheep testicles.

The experimental concoction allegedly proved ineffective, making Ruth ill and leading the Yankees to attribute his absence from the lineup to “a bellyache”.

The first verifiable use of steroids might surprise you. In his best selling book – and one that is on my shelf, Zev’iv Chafets, ‘’Cooperstown Confidential’’ he writes that Mickey Mantle’s fade during his 1961 home run chase with Maris was the indirect result of an attempt by Mantle to gain a substance-based edge.

Chafets alleges that Mantle was hampered by an abcess created by a botched injection of a chemical cocktail administered by a “quack” doctor, Max Jacobsen. According to Chafets, the injection included steroids and amphetamines, among other substances.

This makes Mantle the first known steroid used in baseball.


Robert Bluestein

For certain, it’s unclear. Surely it can be traced back to the 1980s, potentially the 1970s and earlier, where at least some predecessors of performance enhancing drugs were used.

MLB formally banned Steriods in 1991, with the implicit presumption that they were only banned due to a) their usage and b) reliable testing to determine their usage. Widespread PED testing in MLB did not begin until 2003, well after the Mark McGwire / Sammy Sosa HR marathon.

The first MLB’er caught using PED’s was Alex Sanchez in 2005 (Source: List of Major League Baseball players suspended for performance-enhancing drugs – Wikipedia)

If you expand your question to include all of performance enhancing drugs, the sport has been plagued with the usage of such since the 19th century! Hall of Famer Pud Galvin was known for using animal-based testosterone in the 1889 season. (Source: A Different Kind of Performance Enhancer)

ESPN has a good overview of the Steroid Era catalogued here: The Steroids Era

It was 2005. In the 2005 season, Canseco admitted to using steroids and other HGH enhancement drugs.

He had basically been blackballed by every team in baseball. Noone wanted him. So in an attempt to seek revenge on the sport who no longer required his services, he came out and made all kinds of steroid accusations not only against himself but several other prominent athletes in baseball.

We all know by now the shit storm this has caused, so I’d say Jose accomplished his mission if embarrassing baseball. He more than got the last laugh.

In an interesting note, if someone had picked him up that year, I wonder if any of this would have come into view.