Newswise — The quest for greater strength and endurance leads many people, including student, recreational, and professional athletes, to illegally abuse the muscle-building substances known as anabolic steroids. These compounds carry serious, even life-threatening health risks, but their abuse by those seeking to enhance physical performance and appearance continues.

In light of the upcoming summer Olympics, which will feature the world's elite athletes, The Endocrine Society has issued a position statement calling for enhanced detection of steroid abuse among professional and amateur athletes, and greater education to deter teenagers and others from putting their health in jeopardy through steroid doping. The new statement also supports the appropriate clinical use of anabolic steroids.

"The Endocrine Society strongly believes that anabolic steroids and all other hormones should be prescribed and administered only when medically necessary, and only by doctors specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of hormonal disorders," said Society President Margaret Shupnik, PhD. "Safety is our foremost concern, and the public must be aware that there are very serious consequences associated with steroid abuse."

Anabolic steroid abuse has been strongly associated with cardiovascular diseases, including heart attacks and strokes, even in people younger than 30 years of age. Additional risks for men include breast development, acne, hair loss, and enhanced aggression. In women, anabolic steroids can promote the development of more masculine features such as facial hair and a deeper voice.

The Endocrine Society also warns that certain so-called "dietary supplements" are actually steroid precursors, which are converted to potent anabolic steroids in the body. These substances include androstenedione, which was banned from over-the-counter sale in the United States in 2004, and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), which is legally sold and widely available.

"A consistent policy and regulatory approach to all hormone precursors, which are in fact drugs, is essential to protect the safety of vulnerable consumers, particularly for substances such as DHEA," said Dr. Shupnik.

In the statement, the Society stresses that there is a definitive line between abuse and appropriate clinical use. Anabolic steroids have clearly appropriate clinical uses, such as treatment of the syndromes of hormone deficiency and HIV/AIDS wasting, but they also have been associated with illicit drugs.

Specific recommendations outlined in this statement include:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should regulate the manufacture and sales of all hormones and hormone precursors, including those currently sold over the counter as "dietary supplements" (e.g., DHEA). This regulation should also include distribution via the Internet.

The federal government and professional and amateur sports governing bodies should aggressively publicize the dangers of abusing these drugs and support public outreach programs that specifically target at-risk youths.

The federal government should increase funding for research on the development and implementation of high-quality laboratory methodologies for the measurement of hormones, hormone precursors, hormone analogs, and hormone metabolites in samples from humans to detect the abuse of these substances and to diagnose and monitor the treatment of patients with hormonal dysfunction.

Professional and amateur sports governing bodies should adopt the most consistent, most advanced, and most accurate assays when testing for anabolic steroids and other banned substances.

"Since many people aspire to elite athletic performance," said Dr. Shupnik, "it is essential that public understands the health risks associated with steroid abuse and knows how to effectively combat it."

Founded in 1916, The Endocrine Society is the world's oldest, largest, and most active organization devoted to research on hormones, and the clinical practice of endocrinology. Today, The Endocrine Society's membership consists of over 14,000 scientists, physicians, educators, nurses and students in more than 80 countries. Together, these members represent all basic, applied, and clinical interests in endocrinology. The Endocrine Society is based in Chevy Chase, Maryland. To learn more about the Society, and the field of endocrinology, visit our web site at

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