We've all read about them in the news or saw incidents on television of athletes being condemned for taking them. Scientifically, they're known as androgenic steroids, but they're more commonly known as just "steroids," and athletes have been using these androgenic steroids illegally for years.
Derived from synthetic testosterone, these steroids are given to patients who have hormonal imbalances or as a primer for someone who is about to have a sex change operation. Since these androgenic steroids act as the male sex hormone testosterone, the side effects are usually associated with that particular gender, such as facial hair, weight gain, a boost in muscle growth and even unexplained anger (or "roid-rage").
Illegal steroids have been used for years to enhance athletic performance, giving the user an unfair advantage over other competitors. It is, however, easy to detect those who have been abusing steroids because of its physical side effects, such as Gynecomastia (or what is more commonly known as "man-boobs"), severe acne or even smaller testis. What most steroid-using athletes
don't realize, however, is that abusing illegal steroids
can be fatal, resulting in liver failure, high blood pressure, cholesterol and even nasty infections.
How to Detect Steroid Abuse
Through simple steroid testing
, the use of steroids can be detected, because they leave a "metabolic fingerprint," which can be seen in both urine and blood tests. Below are some of the common ways to detect steroid abuse:
1. Hormonal Testing. Since steroids are based from testosterone, the levels of this hormone can be tested in athletes or individuals. Those with an abnormally high testosterone count may be abusing androgenic steroids. Sometimes, testosterone precursors, such as epitestosterone, may also be tested. The pitfall to hormonal testing, however, is that the levels of testosterone and epitestosterone vary from person to person. Asians, for instance, have lower levels of both testosterone and epitestosterone.
2. Androgenic Steroid Testing. Since they are derivatives of natural hormones, synthetic steroids can also be detected using blood or urine tests. This type of testing can be used in addition to hormonal testing
. One disadvantage of androgenic steroid testing is that there are hundreds of types of steroid derivatives and testing for such can only detect a handful of types of synthetic steroids.
3. Isotope Testing. Normal testosterone has a different isotopic profile than synthetic steroids. Isotope testing, therefore, can detect for the presence of steroids by examining the isotopes in samples. This is known to be the most accurate testing method for synthetic steroids. However, it is also the most costly and it takes much longer to obtain the results.
Naturally, if steroids have been legally prescribed to patients, a false positive result will appear in all three tests. The only way to check for the abuse of steroids is to examine the individual's history.
Because of the pressure to excel and win in competitions, more and more athletes are being tempted to improve athletic performance by taking illegal steroids. But through proper guidance and the right testing methods, this problem can be properly addressed and eradicated.