Analysis of non-hormonal nutritional supplements for anabolic-androgenic steroids - results of an international study

Int J Sports Med. 2004 Feb;25(2):124-9. doi: 10.1055/s-2004-819955.


Several recent studies have shown evidence of some nutritional supplements containing prohibited anabolic androgenic steroids, so-called prohormones, which were not declared on the label. Therefore, a broad-based investigation of the international nutritional supplement market was initiated to clarify the extent of this problem. From October 2000 until November 2001, 634 non-hormonal nutritional supplements were purchased in 13 countries from 215 different suppliers. Most supplements were bought in shops in the respective countries (578 samples = 91.2 %) and on the internet (52 samples = 8.2 %). 289 supplements were from prohormone-selling companies and 345 supplements came from companies which do not offer prohormones. After isolation from the supplement matrix 11 different anabolic androgenic steroids, mainly prohormones of testosterone and nandrolone, were analysed by gas-chromatography/mass spectrometry. Out of the 634 samples analysed 94 (14.8 %) contained anabolic androgenic steroids not declared on the label ("positive supplements"). We could not obtain reliable data for 66 samples (10.4 %) due to matrix effects. In relation to the total number of products purchased per country, most of the positive supplements were bought in the Netherlands (25.8 %), in Austria (22.7 %), in the UK (18.8 %) and the USA (18.8 %). According to the label, all positive supplements were from companies located in only five countries: the USA, the Netherlands, the UK, Italy and Germany. 21.1 % of the nutritional supplements from prohormone-selling companies contained anabolic androgenic steroids, whereas 9.6 % of the supplements from companies not selling prohormones were positive. The positive supplements showed anabolic androgenic steroid concentrations of 0.01 micro g/g up to 190 micro g/g. The administration of supplements containing nandrolone prohormones adding up to a total uptake of more than 1 micro g resulted in positive doping results for norandrosterone for several hours.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anabolic Agents* / analysis
  • Dietary Supplements* / analysis
  • Doping in Sports / prevention & control
  • Epitestosterone / urine
  • Glucuronides / urine
  • Humans
  • Internationality
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Product Surveillance, Postmarketing / methods
  • Testosterone / urine


  • Anabolic Agents
  • Glucuronides
  • Testosterone
  • Epitestosterone