Anabolic steroids (synthetic derivatives of testosterone) are considered renegade drugs by the medical profession and their
abuse by athletes is frowned upon. As a result, steroid use for nonmedical purposes is deemed illegal, and the availability
of sensible information is somewhat lacking. Nevertheless, two excellent research studies have been published in the medical
literature which provide data on the use of steroids as ergogenic aids by bodybuilders.
In 1996 researchers from Los Angeles produced undisputed evidence that anabolic steroids enhance muscle size and strength. Ten men were started on a weight-training program combined with a high-protein diet. They were given 600 mg per week of intramuscular testosterone enanthate for ten weeks (equivalent to approximately 1 mg per kg of bodyweight per day). By the end of the experiment the men had gained an average of 6 kg (13 lbs.) of fat-free mass, measured accurately using underwater weighing and high-tech scanning The men also experienced a 30-40 percent increase in strength, doing single- rep maximums in the bench press and squat. In comparison a control group of similar men using the same exercise schedule and diet, but without the benefit of additional testosterone, gained only 2 kg (4 lbs.) in weight with a 15 percent increase in strength. Doing the math, one see that the differences are significant, proving steroids do enhance muscle size and strength. Furthermore, during and after the ten-week experiment the subjects underwent a series of blood tests, including cell count liver and kidney function tests, lipid and cholesterol levels, and prostate markers. Surprisingly all measurements remained within the normal range, during and after the course of steroids.
The largest medical study of steroid users was published in 1997. This survey provides an in-depth analysis of the drug regimens of 100 bodybuilders in the United Kingdom. The group included 33 competitive bodybuilders of national standard. The highest recorded steroid doses were in the region of 3,000 mg per week, although half of the group chose a more modest steroid dose of around 500 mg per week. Over 20 different steroids were being circulated on the black market at the time of the study. The most popular steroid was Nandrolone deconoate (used by over 80 percent). Second place went to injectable testosterones such as Sustanon 250, and Dianabol tablets came in third. Nine out of every ten bodybuilders also used so-called 'steroid accessory drugs "from a list of at least ten pharmaceuticals such as ephedrine, clenbuterol, growth hormone, insulin and tamoxifen. Minor side effects like acne, gynecomastia and cutaneous striae (stretch marks) were experienced by 80 percent of the steroid users. Around 80 percent also reported withdrawal symptoms when they came off steroids, such as loss of muscle size and strength and a reduced sex drive.
This kind of scientific data does provide doctors and other health-care workers with some basic information on drug-assisted bodybuilding.