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Uses of Anabolic-Androgenic Steroids in Sports

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4 min read


Androgenic-anabolic steroids are chemical derivatives of the male hormone testosterone which can enhance sports performance and build the body. Read to know more.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Dhananjay Tiwari

Published At April 11, 2023
Reviewed AtApril 11, 2023


Androgenic-anabolic steroids (AAS) are synthetic derivatives of the male hormone testosterone that have powerful physiological impacts on people and could improve sports performance by increasing strength and body weight. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) accepts the therapeutic use of anabolic-androgenic steroids for various clinical conditions, following laws and moral principles. However, anabolic-androgenic steroids are used illegally by many people, including exceptionally competitive athletes, to improve their looks and performance. Many sports governing organizations have regulations and ethics violated when competitive athletes take anabolic-androgenic steroids illegally. Male athletes most frequently self-report an increase in sexual drive, the occurrence of acne vulgaris, an increase in body hair, and aggressive behavior as the primary adverse effects of AAS misuse.

What Are Anabolic Steroids?

Anabolic steroids are an artificial chemical derivative of testosterone, the "male sex hormone." They aid in the development of muscular tissue and increase body mass. It is significantly used in treating serious illnesses, such as connective tissue disease, certain types of cancer, intractable arthritis, specific sexual dysfunctions, and blood abnormalities, with potentially harmful side effects, and thus, prescribed and administered under medical supervision. However, athletes misuse anabolic steroids to increase sports performance.

Why Are Anabolic Steroids Misused Among Athletes?

Some athletes often combine two or more anabolic steroids in injectable and oral forms. Some are used as gel or lotion, which apply directly to the skin. These dosages might be 10 to 100 times larger than those prescribed for treating diseases. Occasionally used with analgesics or growth hormones with misconceptions of enhanced sports performance with stronger muscles to build body mass. However, they are unaware of the harmful effect of abusing these medications. It is not ethical and safe to use them without a prescription from a medical professional.

What Are the Adverse Effects of the Misuse of Anabolic Steroids?

Although the full effects of anabolic steroid misuse are unknown, the abuse of AAS leads to conditions including high blood pressure, heart disease, liver cancer, stroke, and blood clots. Steroids can also cause gastrointestinal signs like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, headaches, joint pain, muscle cramps, severe acne, and a higher risk of ligament or tendon injuries. In addition, the adverse effects of androgenic anabolic steroids vary based on gender.

Adverse Effects in Men: Testosterone is the source of anabolic steroids, and both gender abusers of these drugs may experience significant changes in their hormone levels. The common side effects in men are

  • Decreased reversible sperm count or infertility.

  • Altered sex drive.

  • Persistent breast enlargement.

  • Painful erections.

  • Reduction in testicular size.

  • Decreased testosterone levels.

  • Increased risk of prostate cancer and prostate enlargement.

  • Increased estrogen levels.

  • Baldness or hair loss.

Adverse Effects in Women: If anabolic steroids are misused for a long time resulting in irreversible adverse outcomes in women compared to men. The common side effects are

  • Higher risk of cervical and endometrial cancer.

  • Osteoporosis.

  • Unwanted hair development in the face and body.

  • Altered sex drive.

  • Infertility for a short period.

  • Reduction in breast size and uterus.

  • Irregular menstruation.

  • Deepening of the voice.

  • Alteration in fat distribution.

Other Common Side Effects:

  • Acne.

  • Increased cholesterol and blood pressure.

  • Altered liver function.

  • Peliosis hepatitis (liver failure caused by rupture of blood-filled cysts).

  • Premature closure of growth plates in adolescents results in stunted growth.

  • Increased incidence of muscle tears and strains.

  • Depression.

  • Mood swings.

  • Addiction.

  • Violent or aggressive behavior.

  • Hepatitis B or C.

  • HIV infection.

How Does the Anabolic Drug Induce AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome)?

A person increases their risk of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) transmission by sharing needles, syringes, or other supplies. Unfortunately, there is no vaccine or curative treatment available for HIV and AIDS. Once infected, HIV impairs the body's ability to fight infections and cancer by attacking the immune system and decreasing the quality of life.

How Do Sports Committees Diagnose the Misuse of Anabolic Steroids?

The misuse of drugs can be identified by drug testing or drug screening with samples of urine, blood, saliva, and sweat that contain traces of one or more illegal medications. Urine samples are most commonly used in drug testing, which tends to detect drug use in the hours, days, or even weeks before the test. There are two types of tests employed in drug testing.

  • At-home tests.

  • A self-collection test.

At-home Tests: Home tests provide quick results. Due to some inaccuracies with the home kit, if the impact is positive, send a sample of saliva or urine to the lab for a definitive diagnosis.

A Self-collection Test: The kit collects your urine, saliva, or other samples to submit to a lab for analysis. It has been done to check for the accuracy of a first test with positive results.

What Occurs When Steroids Are Abruptly Removed?

Anabolic steroids have a strong potential for addiction, which can be treated by behavioral therapy and medicines. The sudden withdrawal of anabolic drugs leads to some of the withdrawal symptoms that are

  • Fatigue.

  • Restlessness.

  • Insomnia (lack of sleep).

  • Loss of appetite.

  • Drug cravings.

  • Reduced sex desire.

  • Depression even results in suicide attempts.

How to Increase Strength With Other Supplements?

The supplement increases strength and muscle mass without the adverse side effects of steroids. Over-counter dietary supplements might result in temporary diarrhea and cramps. Enhance muscular growth by gradually increasing strength and stamina. However, it can be dangerous if misused or taken in high doses in conjunction with drugs such as alcohol and aspirin or when combined with stimulants such as caffeine or ephedrine. Hence, consult a doctor or nutritionist before beginning or adding any over-the-counter nutritional supplements. The other strength training methods are

  • Adopt a balanced diet with plenty of sleep.

  • Use protective gear to prevent injury.

  • Get trained by experts with appropriate guidance.

  • Get advice from nutritionists to gain appropriate strength.

  • Set a goal and work according to it without using drugs.


Misusing anabolic steroids by high school, college, and other amateur athletes is highly dangerous. Many sport governing bodies have regulations and ethics that are violated when competitive athletes take AAS illegally. The athletes with the mentality of "winning at all costs" redirect them to use anabolic steroids. The ACSM regrets the unauthorised use of AAS for competitive sports and leisure activities. Hence, educating amateur athletes on the psychological and physical risks of steroid misuse is essential, with a thorough understanding of the physical demands and requirements of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

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Dr. Dhananjay Tiwari
Dr. Dhananjay Tiwari

General Practitioner


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