Anabolic steroids are drugs that have been used by athletes to enhance performance for more than thirty years. The drugs are more appropriately called Anabolic (tissue building)/Androgenic (Masculinisation) Steroids because of the real physiological and behavioural changes they bring about when used.

Who invented anabolic steroids?

These drugs were developed and refined by an American Dr John B. Ziegler who later stated that he wished he “could take that chapter out of my life”.

What do anabolic steroids do?

Anabolic steroids mimic the actions of the male hormone testosterone. Hormones are chemicals made by our bodies and testosterone, though identified as a male hormone is still produced by females, but to a much lesser degree.

What changes do anabolic steroids cause?

Anabolic steroids stimulate bone, skin, muscle and hair growth as well as causing emotional changes to take place. “Roid rage” describes the extreme aggressive and violent behaviour often associated with the abuse of these drugs.

Why do athletes use anabolic steroids?

Athletes use these drugs because they want to build up their muscles. They believe that by increasing muscle size (and frequently body weight) they will become faster, stronger and therefore more powerful.

Who else uses steroids?

Young males and females also abuse these drugs, seeking to increase their physical appearance artificially rather than through a sound health related programme based on physical activity, good nutrition and plenty of sleep.

Do anabolic steroids do any permanent damage?

Adolescents who use anabolic steroids run the risk of calcification of the “growth plates” of the long bones of the body and the stunting of growth.

What are the side effects of steroid use?

Men tend to develop breasts and swollen nipples. Their genitals reduce in size and sperm production ceases. They also increase the risk of testicular and prostate cancer. Women start to develop baldness, facial hair growth and a deepening of their voice. Their breasts reduce in size, their periods become irregular or stop and their genitals enlarge. Both sexes develop aggressive, violent behaviour, acne on the face, back and neck, high blood pressure and a swollen liver.

Why do athletes use diuretics?

Diuretics eliminate fluid from body tissues. Athletes use them for weight reduction, to reduce fluid retention caused by anabolic steroids and to mask the excretion of banned drugs.

How do diuretics work?

Diuretics act by altering the transportation of selected electrolytes or ions, e.g. sodium, chloride or bicarbonate, through the kidneys. This alteration reduces the reabsorbtion of these ions, and as a consequence, because the body regulates the concentration of the urine, more water is excreted.

Why do athletes use bicarbonate of soda?

Bicarbonate of soda delays the build up of lactic acid in muscles and by doing this delays fatigue.

Why are beta-blockers used?

Beta-blockers have a heart slowing, calming effect, which reduces tremor by blocking the production of adrenaline in times of stress. In sports like shooting, archery, snooker, bobsleigh, ski jumping and diving this is of benefit.

Why do we need drug testing?

Using illegal substances is not only a form of cheating which undermines the spirit of fair play, but substance misuse puts the health of the athlete at risk.

What does drug testing involve?

Doping control involves the supervised collection of an athlete’s urine sample, which is sent to an IOC accredited laboratory for analysis. If banned drugs are detected, disciplinary measures are carried out which could result in temporary or permanent disqualification of the offending athlete.

What sorts of drugs are banned by sports bodies?

The main groups of banned drugs are:


Narcotic analgesics (painkillers)

Anabolic steroids


Peptide and glycoprotein hormones and analogues.