Use of doping agents, particularly anabolic steroids, in sports and society

Lancet. 2008 May 31;371(9627):1872-82. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(08)60801-6.


The use of doping agents, particularly anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS), has changed from being a problem restricted to sports to one of public-health concern. We review the prevalence of misuse, the evidence that some drugs improve performance in sport, their side-effects, and the long-term consequences of AAS misuse for society at large. There is substantial under-reporting of the side-effects of AAS to health authorities. We describe neuropsychiatric side-effects of AAS and their possible neurobiological correlates, with particular emphasis on violent behaviour. Analytical methods and laboratories accredited by the World Anti-Doping Agency can detect the misuse of all doping agents; although the analysis of testosterone requires special techniques, and recently discovered interethnic differences in testosterone excretion should be taken into account. The prevention of misuse of doping agents should include random doping analyses, medical follow-ups, pedagogic interventions, tougher legislation against possession of AAS, and longer disqualifications of athletes who use AAS.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Anabolic Agents* / administration & dosage
  • Anabolic Agents* / adverse effects
  • Anabolic Agents* / metabolism
  • Androgens* / administration & dosage
  • Androgens* / adverse effects
  • Androgens* / metabolism
  • Doping in Sports* / statistics & numerical data
  • Doping in Sports* / trends
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physical Endurance / drug effects
  • Prevalence


  • Anabolic Agents
  • Androgens