"For 50 years, bike racers have been taking stimulants," Frenchman Jacques Anquetil, five-time winner of the Tour de France and a superstar in his country, said with remarkable candor in 1967, at the height of an unseemly drug scandal in his sport.
"Obviously, we can do without them in a race, but then we will pedal 15 miles an hour instead 25. Since we are constantly asked to go faster and to make even greater efforts, we are obliged to take stimulants."
"Half an hour before we go on the field, half-hour before the game, you see the guys who use amphetamines start to go to the water faucet," said a current member of the Washington Redskins .
"You definitely see personality changes. Some guys become very hard to talk to. I'm sure a lot depends on the different dosages, but some players are impossible to communicate with. You see a glazed look in their eyes. You'll be talking to them, and they'll just walk away and start pounding on a locker or something ."
Cincinnati Reds catcher Johnny Bench, in his recently published autobiography, "Catch You Later," wrote about himself and pitcher Gary Nolan as newcomers to major league baseball in the late 1960s:
"About the time Gary and I came up, using Dexamyls and Darprisals was very common. (This has changed today, not only because of new government regulations on amphetamines but also because players' attitudes about drugs and their effects have come a long way.)
"The trainers had them and nobody thought twice about passing them out. A lot of pitchers popped. Gary would get a couple of daps in him and he'd start chirping away, just sitting in the dugout and talking a blue streak. His eyes would get all googly and he wouldn't answer a question, just stay as high as he could and pitch his head off.
"He wouldn't come down sometimes for at least an hour or so after the game. We'd go back to the hotel and he'd watch television even if there wasn't anything on. He watched a test pattern once, just engrossed by those lines . . .
"(Pills) were misused, and not just by pitchers, and for that I blame the trainers who dispensed them as much as the players who took them. In the pros, you look for any leg up, and a lot of guys, especially pitchers facing a tough start, thought daps and dexys were that edge."
"The starry-eyed American public wanted to believe-I think they're changing their views now, but they still want to believe - that athletics are synonymous with purity and that the kid out on the streets using drugs is not the kid on the basketball floor or football field, the star of the high school team," said former Olympic gold medalist Harold Connolly, now a high school English teacher in Santa Monica, Calif .
"But they're not separated. These are the same kids. They interact with each other. I've seen fine young football players and basketball players and track athletes take drugs and say, "How is this going to affect the way I play? Will it help me in the game ?'
"I tell the students in the class I teach on sports literature that Olympic athletes will not be heavy drug users when they go into the Stadium in Moscow next year because they are going to be tested and nailed if they use stimulants.Then they ask about the Super Bowl and the NBA playoffs, and I have to be honest and say: 'How do you know? They don't have any testing.' There's no testing in high school sports, either, and kids take uppers ."
It would be possible, but not especially useful, to extend this series of vignettes and comments almost infinitely. The point is clear. The Olympic motto that has inspired generations of athletes is "Swifter, Higher, Stronger." But for too many, the path to this ideal is first to go "Higher, Higher, Higher."
While the use of stimulants is nowhere near as extensive as it was 10 years ago in baseball and basketball, it remains a definite problem in cycling, football, track and field and some other sports.
The stimulants most commonly used by athletes are amphetamines, which are used medically as "anorexics"-hunter-suppressants or "diet pills." Stimulation is a side effect, but it becomes the primary effect for those who use amphetamines as "pep pills."
Other stimulants used by athletes include ephedrine, which is similar in chemical structure to adrenalin and is an ingredient in many nasal sprays, decongestants, and antihistamines; Ratalin (methylphenidate), a psychostimulant also used as a depressant for hyperactive children; Tofranil (imipramine), a "mood elevator:" caffeine, which is increasingly being used by runners unaware of its potential for causing heart arrhythmias, and cocaine, currently in vogue as a "social drug" and coming into limited use as one for sports performance.
Amphetamines have been described as a "triple threat." They suppress appetite, which makes them attractive to wrestlers, jockeys, boxers and other athletes on crash diets to "make weight;" they speed up the circulatory and respiratory systems, inducing hyperactivity that can mask fatigue, and they give a gung-ho, aggressive "kick" to the brain.
In high doses, they also help make an individual oblivious to pain and give him a feeling of reckless abandon, invincibility and anger, psychological manifestations that football players and other athletes in contact sports sometimes consider desirable.
Thus-even though they have a frightening list of physical and emotional side effects, can be deadly in overdose and are certainly psychologically, if not physically, addictive-amphetamines are sometimes tempting aids to a player going all out in the last period of an exhausting game . . . a cross-country skier or cyclist facing the last hills of a grueling journey . . . a 35-year-old football player who no longer has the youthful spring in his legs of the 25-year-old across the line from him . . . a sprinter about to toe the mark in a big meet where fractions of a second loom unimaginably long . . . a sore-armed relief pitcher trying to get through the last days of a 162-game season . . . or a javelin thrower who knows that an Olympic gold medal depends on one's backlog of quality training, and needs a little extra pep to get him through the days when he doesn't feel like training.
Amphetamines have been used at one time or another in practically every sport from auto racing to yachting, but their widespread use is concentrated in a few.
"Stimulants are a big problem in professional football. They're also going to be used in any sport that requires an explosive effort-high-tension types of sports such as sprinting-and sports where endurance is a big factor," said Dr. Irving Dardik, chairman of the U.S. Olympic Committee's Sports Medicine Committee.
"The problem with stimulants is nowhere near as extreme as that with anabolic steroids, as far as numbers, in the Olympic sports. Testing in major international competitions has helped curb it. But from an acute point of view, the danger is more serious. That is, the potential of sudden death is there."
Indeed, soccer and football players have collapsed and died on the field, their cardiovascular systems taxed beyond their limits by exertion either induced or masked by stimulants. Several cyclists, "over-amped" on amphetamines, have pedaled their hearts out.
Medical literature warns repeatedly of the high potential for abuse of amphetamine, and lists its adverse reactions, including rapid beating and palpitations of the heart, elevated blood pressure, restlessness, dizziness, insomnia, headaches, dryness of mouth, unpleasant taste, diarrhea, vomitting, constipation, impotence, changes in libido and others.
In overdose, amphetamines can cause tremor, overactivity of the nervous system, confusion, assaultiveness, hallucinations, panic states, hypertension, nausea, cardiac arrhythmia, severe cramps, and possibly convulsions, coma and death.
Nevertheless, athletes continue to take amphetamines in varied doses-"addicted" not in the sense of physical dependence, but because they cannot face competition without them.
"I tried them and found out they did me much more harm than good," said Harold Connolly. "I became hyper and uncoordinated. I hated the aftereffects-the headaches and insomnia. I couldn't use them.
"But I know a lot of people who did. I saw some unbelievable, scary things, people bouncing off walls as they got ready to compete."
In track and field, the classic case is that of Jim Neidhart, a Californian who became accustomed to popping a couple of uppers before every track meet in Long Beach, where he was the leading high school shot-putter in the country in 1973. He increased his drug intake during an ill-fated college career, and went on several legendary drug-induced rampages.
The most notorious came after the 1976 Pacific-Eight Conference championships at Berkeley. Neidhart, of UCLA, favored to win the shot put, came in a disappointing second. Already fortified by a massive dose of amphetamine, he "unwound" with tranquilizers and alcohol and then, in the words of a witness, "just went berserk."
Neidhart, who weighed more than 300 pounds, practically dismantled his motel room, then tied four bed sheets together, strapped a fire extinguisher on his back, and leapt Tarzan-style off a fourth-floor balcony.
Instead of swinging to another balcony, however, his arc sent him crashing through a plate glass window and into a first-floor room. UCLA wound up with a $5,500 bill. Neidhart, vastly relieved that he was still alive, transferred to the University of Hawaii.
His problems did not end there, however. He went back to UCLA, but was dismissed after the 1977 track season. He tried to go back to Hawaii, then UCLA again, but was denied admission. He then enrolled at Cal State-Long Beach on a track scholarship, but it was revoked when he was declared ineligible.
Neidhart allegedly threatened to beat up Ron Ellis, the track coach, if he wasn't given $1,200 the equivalent of his scholarship, to train independently. He spent a month in jail for extortion on this charge. He tried out for the Dallas Cowboys (he had been an All-America defensive tackle in high school, but had not played college football), but was dismissed when the team learned that he was awaiting trial in Long Beach. Friends say that he is now a professional wrestler in Canada, awaiting a tryout with a Canadian Football League team.
"Methamphetamine (also called methedrine) is the stimulant of choice for most athletes," said one track man. "It is a little more potent than amphetamine and has a methyl component attached to it that sends it into the bloodstream a little faster, and with a little more kick, than straight amphetamine.
"Methamphetamine is the drug classically referred to as 'speed,' or 'white, or 'crystal,' although now anything that goes up is referred to as 'speed' or 'wire.'
"Athletes, particularly football players, prefer methamphetamine because it creates less confusion in the psyche than Benzedrine (amphetamine) or Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine). You get amped up, but it doesn't confuse you or make you as nervous as bennies and dexies do. You can do what you have to do without losing your cool and getting shaky."
The most popular brand of methamphetamine among athletes, according to the track man, is Desoxyn, manufactured by Abbott and supplied in five-milligram white, 10-milligram orange and 15-milligram yellow tablets. Other companies manufacture the same chemical under its generic name.
Biphetamine is also used. As manufactured by the Pennwalt Corp., it comes in a 7 1/2-milligram white capsule, 12 1/2-milligram black-and-white capsule and 20-milligram black capsule commonly referred to by athletes as "Black-Beauties."
"On an empty stomach, that is about an 18-hour ride, if you can believe that," said the track man. "It has a time-release ingredient in it that can keep you cooking for a good number of hours. That's why the cross-country skiers and cyclists like it.
"Another favorite is Obetrol, which contains four different kinds of amphetamine (equal measures of dextroamphetamine saccharate, amphetamine asparate, dextroamphetamine sulfate and amphetamine sulfate). That is what Neidhart took.
"You can take one 20-milligram capsule of that and scoot along for a whole day-go lift all kinds of weights, throw things and boogey around most of the night. When you take half a dozen of them like Neidhart did-120 milligrams of amphetamine!-you could fly out a window, which is exactly what he did."
Despite the obvious dangers of amphetamines, athletes who want them have historically been able to get them.
Congressional action in the early 1970s-particularly meetings of Rep. Harley O. Staggers (D-W.Va.), then chairman of the Investigations subcommittee of the House Commerce Committee, with commissioners of the various American pro leagues-led to official crackdowns by the National Football League, National Basketball Association, major league baseball, and the National Hockey League.
All these instituted strict regulations for monitoring of team medicine cabinets and reporting of all drugs ordered and distributed to the league offices for review.
But no American league has done what many European soccer organizations have resorted to: random urine or saliva tests. Without these, most medical authorities agree, there is no sure-fire way to control the use of amphetamines by players who obtain them from sources outside the team.
"Some athletes have had to go to the street and take whatever uppers they can get there-usually what we call 'minibennies' or 'white crosses,' because that's the marking on them," said the track man. "They're supposed to be amphetamine, but you never really know what crap may be in them. So you're essentially buying garbage at a high price, and a lot of guys have gotten sick from them."
There are numerous slang terms for the uppers available on the street in most American cities.
An antidrug brochure for coaches and athletes prepared by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, one of many educational efforts inspired by the Staggers subcommittee, listed these: pep pills, bennies, wakeups, eye-openers, lid poppers, capilots, truck drivers, peaches, roses, hearts, cartwheels, whites, coast-to-coast, L. A. turnarounds, browns, footballs, greenies, bombido, oranges, dexies, jelly beans, A's, jelly babies, sweets, beans, upper and crystal.
Some of these refer to the color or shape of particular brands of pills, others to the effects they produce, still others to the people who use them. By any name, they are trouble when used inappropriately.
Another major problem with stimulants is the irrefutable law of nature, as postulated by Sir Issac Newton, that what goes up must come down. Descending from an amphetamine high can be a gruesome experience, physically and emotionally, characterized by paranoia, sleeplessness, impotence, belligerence and a variety of other bodily and psychic demons.
In order to take the edge off this drug hangover, some athletes turn to "downers"-alcohol, marijuana, "angel dust" or sedatives.
The most dangerous are barbiturates, all derivatives of barbituric acid, which are carefully controlled narcotics, extremely habit-forming and deadly when mixed with alcohol. "Red Devils," "Reds," "Yellowjackets" and "Rainbows" are slang terms referring to the color of various tablets or capsules in which barbiturates such as Nembutal, Tuinal, Seconal and Amytal come.
"Athletes have gotten scared by what they've seen of barbiturates, so they've turned to coming down on nonbarbiturate sedatives such as Quaaludes (methaqualone), which are very easy to get in Europe," said the track man. Some tranquilizers such as Valium (diezapam) and Librium (chlordiazepoxide) are also used as relaxing agents, maybe more so now that marijuana has gotten so expensive and the authorities are cracking down on PCP (also known as "angel dust," "dust," or "AD").
Educational programs urged by the Staggers subcommittee and implemented by many sports bodies in the early '70s have helped alert athletes to the considerable dangers of uppers and downers and have contributed to a decline in their use.
Nevertheless, stimulant use is hardly extinct in football or other sports.
Cocaine, once considered exclusively a "recreational drug," is now used by some athletes as a stimulant to enhance performance. It is expensive and short-acting-"strictly a second-half drug," says one NFL player-but it provides the same feelings of euphoria, courage, invincibility and indifference to pain as amphetamines, without the impairment of judgment and sexual performance and agonizing aftereffects.
Some track men also have taken to competing on cocaine, but few amateur athletes-at least in this country-can afford to do so. Most of those who take stimulants still use ephedrine or amphetamines.
Ironically, while amphetamine use has declined markedly in many sports, it seems on the upswing again in track and field-partially as a means of overcoming the sluggishness that is a side effect of heavy use of anabolic steroids.
To some, the wide use-and abuse-of stimulants is frightening. But as Jacques Anquetil said a decade ago, after several cyclists had died from amphetamine-induced broken hearts, athletes will take stimulants as long as they feel pressured to pedal 25 miles per hour instead of 15. CAPTION: Picture, Johnny Bench: "In the pros, you look for any leg up . . ." AP