Ask Vivomed’s Pharmacist – Anabolic Steroid Abuse in Sport

Ask Vivomed’s Pharmacist – Anabolic Steroid Abuse in Sport

Anabolic androgenic steroids are synthetic versions of the male sex hormone testosterone (testosterone blog HERE) & their use is strictly prohibited. Widespread use of anabolic steroids has been witnessed not only in professional sports such as weightlifting but also among recreational gym users in the pursuit of aesthetic development. There are currently 100’s of anabolic steroids which currently exist, all of which are derived from testosterone. Anabolic steroids work by mimicking the actions of testosterone by binding to androgen receptors which are present throughout the body, including the testes, skin & muscle. The interaction with the androgen receptors, primarily results in increased muscle mass & masculinisation.

Effects of Anabolic Steroids

• Promotes skeletal muscle growth & strength
• Increases red blood cell production
• Reduces body fat
• Can help reduce muscle wastage in HIV/AIDS patients

Side effects of Anabolic Steroids (Male)

• Severe acne
• Hair damage leading to male pattern baldness
• Heart disease
• Reduced sperm count
• Increased risk of prostate cancer
• Liver abnormalities
• Shrinking of testicles
• Increased irritability & aggression
• Kidney damage
• Impaired immune system
• Inhibits bone growth
• Gynecomastia

Side effects of Anabolic Steroids (Women)

• Development of masculine facial characteristics (e.g. Facial hair, pronounced jaw line)
• Deepening of voice
• Hair loss
• Severe acne

USA sprinter Marion Jones
USA sprinter Marion Jones

A number of athletes have presented with confirmed tests for anabolic steroid use over the past few decades. Most notably American 100m sprinter Ben Johnson, who tested positive for Stanozolol at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games & Marion Jones for the use of Tetrahydrogestrinone (THG) at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Both adverse drug findings resulted in a prolonged ban from competition.

Ben Johnson 1988 Seoul Olympic Games
Ben Johnson 1988 Seoul Olympic Games

Testing procedures for anabolic steroids are similar to those used for testosterone due to the structural similarities. In essence urine sample analysis, carbon isotope ratio testing & monitoring of an athlete’s biological blood passport or “steroid profile”. An athletes steroid profile is determined by markers present within a urine sample. Markers include hormones such as; testosterone, epitestosterone & androsterone. An athlete who has used anabolic steroids will generally present with a distinguishable increase or decrease in one or more of the steroid profile markers. An abnormal steroid profile may warrant investigation into a possible anti-doping rule violation (ADRV).

Useful Links

World Anti-Doping Agency-

For more information about drugs in sport and how to make sure your club and players are staying within the rules please see this article about sports team drug ordering.

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