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Athletes and anabolic steroids

Abstract

Forty years ago, testosterone was shown to have anabolic effects in animals1 and certain synthetic derivatives (anabolic steroids) were claimed to have this anabolic action without the virilizing effects of testosterone.2 These ‘anabolic steroids’ have found limited use in medicine; their ability to increase tissue mass in clinical conditions has never been adequately studied. Recent re-investigation of the effects of testosterone and its derivatives in rats3 failed to confirm the anabolic effect. The ‘rat levator ani’ assay, on which earlier conclusions largely depended, responds specifically to androgens and does not necessarily indicate a general somatic effect; and the enhanced growth of male animals is probably due to brief early exposure to testosterone which programs future development.4 5

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