Monday, October 6, 2014



Article by Veeraj Goyaram 
Natty or Enhanced?
Today I will write about something that may startle some of you Mauritians. While researching the history of the use of steroids in sports I made a couple of interesting discoveries. 

As you probably know, the use of steroid-based performance enhancers in sports didn't start at the Seoul 1988 Olympics when Ben Johnson was caught and not even at the first Mr. Olympia in 1965. Performance enhancer use started before the first modern Olympics (Athens 1896). 

In this article, you will learn how a Mauritian scientist named Charles Edouard Brown-Séquard pioneered the development of the first steroid-based performance enhancing substance, an Elixir as it was then called. It didn't take long before that Elixir caught the attention of sportsmen of that era. We were still in the late 1880s. Read on!

Juicing in sports didn't start with Dianabol
The use of synthetic steroids in sports and bodybuilding didn't start with Dianabol as most of you may think. Dr. John Ziegler is the one who got sportsmen to quickly adopt Dianabol shortly after its introduction by CIBA in 1958. Weightlifters, among whom was John Grimek, at the York Barbell Club used them at 10mg/ day. Bodybuilders quickly adopted Dianabol too. The Soviets were using steroids way before Dianabol was invented. 

Drug use in bodybuilding was already common in the late 40s and early 50s, especially among West Coast bodybuilders in America. The reports indicate that Testosterone Propionate and methyltestosterone were common at that time especially after the 1945 book "The Male Hormone" by Paul de Kruif sang praises of the muscle-building properties these two drugs. 
In the year 1935 scientists had already discovered testosterone in testicular extracts. Before this discovery, testosterone was only known as a performance-enhancing "substance" in bull testicular extracts. The same year scientists elucidated the chemical structure of testosterone and first synthesized chemically by pharmaceutical giants CIBA and Schering (both teams shared the 1939 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for this remarkable work). These phama giants already saw the business potential of testosterone.
As early Testosterone propionate and methyltestosterone were already in bodybuilding in the late 40s and early 50s. This begs the question: Were Reeves and his peers perhaps on something?
Performance-enhancing "substance" in bull testicles
The testes have been known to influence male-type characteristics and behavior since ancient times but it is only in 1849 that German scientist Arnold Berthold discovered that the testes do this by secreting and unknown substance into the bloodstream.

The use of a testicular extract was known to enhance athletic performance and well being. This is what prompted pharmaceutical companies to study this extract, leading to the 1935 discovery of testosterone. In 1927 University of Chicago scientists Fred Koch and McGee isolated 20mg of a "substance" from 40 lbs of bull testicles that was able to confer performance enhancing and re-masculinising benefits in castrated animals.

However, as early as 1896 it was hypothesized by Austrian scientist Oskar Zoth that injections of steroid-based testicular extracts could enhance athletic performance. Zoth wrote a paper to propose that further research be conducted on the "mysterious substance" in animal testicles that could offer performance-enhancing benefits. But who first had the idea of preparing a testicular extract for injection? Who first believed in their performance enhancing powers? Surprisingly this guy was a Mauritian.

Professor Charles-Edouard Brown-Séquard (1817-1894): the man who fathered it all in this field.
Mauritian physiologist Professeur Charles-Edouard Brown-Sequard, the leading neurologist of his time and the father of modern-day endocrinology made a concentrated extract derived from guinea pig and dog testicles. He showed that injecting this extract could enhance physical strength and intellectual capacity in humans. The amazing effects that he observed were reported in 1889 at the Société de Biologie in Paris. This extract was known among scientists as the Brown-Séquard Elixir. It was probably the first hormonal supplement known to man and a Mauritian invented it!
Professor Charles-Edouard Brown-Séquard, a proud son of Mauritius and the father of modern-day hormone research
The first athlete steroid user used the Elixir made by a Mauritian
The preparations of Brown-Séquard intrigued Major League Baseball player Pud Galvin. The latter wondered if injections of the elixir would enhance his baseball performance. Thus, Galvin became the first known athlete to inject a steroid-based product when he became a regular user of the Brown-Séquard Elixir.
Brown-Séquard Elixir was free
Galvin, the first known user of a steroid-based product in sports. 100 years before the doping scandal on baseball broke!
Were they all "users" then?
We cannot say for sure whether Eugene Sandow used bull testicle extracts in his quest for strength and muscle size. But we know human nature very well. Humans, especially athletes, are always willing to try something that gives them the edge on their competitors. Arnold once said that he would eat a pound of shit if it gave him one pound of muscle. Would Sandow, who was active in the 1890s have taken testicular extracts in order to help him in his strength feats?  Did Bobby Pandour, who sported a tremendous build in the early 1900s also use? I don't have an answer to these question. One can only speculate.

A forgotten son of Mauritius
What a pity that such an illustrious and brilliant Mauritian is only remembered by a mental hospital, a rare neurological disease (Brown-Séquard syndrome) and a few streets named after him.

Professor Brown-Séquard was born in Port Louis in 1817, seven years after the capture of the island by the British. His American father, Charles Brown, was a merchant navy sailor who went to fetch a cargo of rice to help with a post-cyclonic food shortage in Mauritius but never made it to the island to see the birth of his son as he got lost at sea. 

Young Charles-Edouard was brought up by his single mother, Henriette Perrine Séquard under very difficult financial circumstances. Henriette worked as a seamstress to make ends meet. His old grandfather, who was a teacher, also helped bring him up.  

Brown-Séquard went to college until the age of 15 when he had to quit and go earn a living selling stuff as a commis (shop assistant) in a shop in Port Louis. He was very good at poetry and writing and it was not long before his talent caught the attention of the shop regulars that included Mauritian intellectuals and poets. The latter provided him with encouragement and money to go pursue literary studies in Paris, France.

In Paris, he didn't succeed in poetry. Disheartened, he burnt all his work and enrolled in Medicine. Halfway through his studies, he abandoned university because his mother passed away. He was wandering miserably in France and came to back to Mauritius. Finally he regained composure and headed back to France to finish his studies. 

Brown-Séquard was made docteur en médecine in Paris at the age of 29. He then began a lifelong practice of experimenting on himself. He turned one of his rooms into an animal laboratory. He was pitifully poor but he sustained his research by practicing medicine. He didn't only discover the rejuvenating power of testosterone-containing testicular extracts but a host of other things in medicine, particularly in the field of neurology.

One of the numerous books written on Brown-Séquard. The title says it all
A heroic scientist and true Mauritian
When he found out in May 1854 that a Cholera epidemic (that was to take the lives of 8000 people) was devastating his homeland Mauritius he took his wife and headed back home to help the country. He worked selflessly to combat the disease by organizing a hospital and performing research experiments to better understand the disease. It is said that ever the experimenter he even swallowed the vomit of cholera victims to test how the disease was transmitted and then further risked his life by taking an overdose of Laudanum as an antidote. He not only experimented with balls but also had balls of steel to do this.

Brown-Sequard worked selflessly to help his country Mauritius. 

The name of the island's well-known mental hospital is that of a very brilliant doctor, scientist and a hardworking and altruistic man. 

He needs to be featured prominently in history books. 

On the funny side of things, the name of this legendary man has even been misspelled (or "Indianised") by some facebookers who referred to the Brown-Séquard Hospital as <<L'hopital Ramsekur>>. 

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