(Reuters) - Forget anabolic steroids in easy-to-swallow tablets, or EPO in clean syringes. Ancient Olympic dopers got their pre-Games hormone boost from chewing on raw animal testicles.
The problem of some Olympic competitors taking potions, medicines and supplements to boost performance is as old as the Games themselves.
Even athletes of the 19th century thought nothing of fortifying themselves with coca leaves, cocaine and alcohol. Thomas Hicks won the 1904 Olympic marathon with the help of raw egg, strychnine and shots of brandy given to him at regular intervals by his attentive coach.
"Doping has always been part of the Olympics, but drugs have not always been seen as a problem, they have become a problem," Martin Polley, an Olympic historian at Britain's Southampton University, told Reuters.
TONICS, TINCTURES AND TESTICLES
Experts say what drove people to extremes then is probably similar to what drives athletes to dope now.
After all, the desire to win by any means must have been strong to induce athletes to eat raw testicles - although as Polley points out it was "probably also seen as a sign of masculinity".
The difference now is that drugs are safer, subtler and more sophisticated. And perception of cheating has changed.
Athletes competing in the earliest days of the modern Olympics, which began in Athens 1896, felt perfectly free to take medicines, stimulants and "tonics," says Vanessa Heggie, a sports medicine historian at Cambridge University.
Read more at Reuters.