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J Athl Train. 2002 Jul-Sep; 37(3): 300–305.
PMCID: PMC164360

The Safety and Efficacy of Anabolic Steroid Precursors: What is the Scientific Evidence?

Abstract

Objective: Anabolic steroid precursors have gained widespread popularity as ergogenic supplements. Advertisements for these supplements claim that they increase endogenous testosterone production and protein synthesis, resulting in increased lean body mass and strength during training. At this time scientific support is limited, but the potential for serious side effects exists and the popularity of these supplements continues to grow. This review provides rationales for the ergogenic claims regarding steroid precursors and compares claims with data from scientifically controlled investigations.

Data Sources: A search of MEDLINE and SPORT Discus from 1960 to 2001 using the key words dehydroepiandrosterone, androstenedione, and androstenediol in combination with testosterone, estrogen, exercise, performance, and side effects.

Data Synthesis: Although fairly new to the athletic community, steroid precursors have been used as ergogenic or anabolic agents for quite some time. Suggested gains in strength and lean body mass are attributed to an increase in the endogenous production of testosterone and enhanced protein synthesis. Most of the scientific data, however, do not support manufacturers' ergogenic claims, and the potential for serious side effects, such as decreased high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and increased estrogen concentrations, has been associated with precursor use. Thus, the safety and efficacy of these supplements must be questioned.

Conclusions/Recommendations: It appears that the risks associated with the use of anabolic steroid precursors outweigh any possible ergogenic benefits. Furthermore, these supplements are banned by most athletic organizations. Thus, it is extremely important that athletic trainers are able to educate athletes on these issues so they can continue to perform at an optimum level in a safe and healthy manner.

Keywords: dehydroepiandrosterone, adrostenedione, androstenediol, ergogenic aid

Articles from Journal of Athletic Training are provided here courtesy of National Athletic Trainers Association
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