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Anabolic steroid doping

Taking performance-enhancing substances in sport is cheating. Sporting governing bodies for events like the Olympics and the Tour de France play a constant cat-and-mouse game with testing to trap the cheats. One of the doping substances they look out for is anabolic steroids.

Anabolic steroids include anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS) with individual drugs having long names like desoxymethyltestosterone and dehydrochlormethyltestosterone. Other anabolic agents include clenbuterol.

Dwain Chambers was caught using anabolic steroids and served a ban from British sport.

US Olympic drug cheat Marion Jones had been tested over 160 times but the tests didn't spot the designer steroids she used.

Amateur and professional athletes may be tempted to use anabolic steroids to increase muscle bulk and give their performance an edge on those who are competing clean. However, there's a significant risk to health, including a slightly increased risk of liver cancer with long-term use.

How do anabolic steroids work?

Steroids mimic natural hormones that regulate how the body works and develops.

Anabolic steroids are similar to the male hormone testosterone and can enhance endurance, performance, and muscle growth.

Athletes who misuse these substances may be able to train harder and for longer, get more muscles quicker, and recover faster from exertion.

Anabolic steroid risks

The drug advice website Frank says the downside of anabolic steroids is the risk of making someone feel paranoid, irritable, aggressive, violent, or experience dramatic mood swings or sleep disorders.

While bigger muscles may make someone look more 'manly', down below the anabolic steroids could be shrinking a male user's testicles. Other male changes may result, including bigger breasts, erection problems and sterility, hair loss and acne. The World Anti-Doping Agency says people may also feel suicidal.

For women, the risk is having more masculine characteristics, such as more facial hair but also  hair loss on the head, deeper voice, smaller breasts, enlarged clitoris, acne, menstrual problems, as well as the sex drive being affected.

For both sexes, blood pressure may be raised along with a higher risk of liver failure, stroke, and heart attack.

A further risk comes from the injections to get the steroids into the system. These include skin damage, ulcers, and gangrene.

Shared or dirty needles also increase the risk of infection with HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.

The law

As well as the risk of being thrown out of a sporting competition and possibly banned for life, anabolic steroids are also Class C drugs in the UK. They can only be obtained legally with a prescription.

Possession for personal use is not illegal, but having steroids with the intention of selling them or giving them to friends is illegal.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on December 22, 2017

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