Testosterone and its synthetic derivatives anabolic-androgenic steroids have been shown to increase skeletal muscle work capacity and fatigue resistance, but the molecular basis for these effects remains uncertain. Since muscle performance has been related to redox status of exercising muscles, this investigation was aimed at testing whether a treatment with suprapharmacological doses of the anabolic-androgenic steroid stanozolol, (2 mg/kg body weight, 5 days/week, for 8 weeks), either alone or in conjunction with treadmill training (12 weeks), enhanced antioxidant defences in rat muscles. Stanozolol treatment did not modify thiobarbituric acid reactive substances and glutathione content in soleus and extensor digitorum longus (EDL) homogenates. In soleus from sedentary rats, superoxide dismutase and glutathione reductase activities were increased by 25% (P < 0.05) and by 40% (P < 0.01) after stanozolol administration, whereas catalase and glutathione peroxidase activities were not modified. This response was similar to that induced by training alone. In EDL from sedentary rats, stanozolol increased only superoxide dismutase activity (20%, P < 0.05). In no case, the effects of steroid administration and training were additive. HSP72 levels were up-regulated in soleus (1.5-fold, P < 0.01) and EDL (threefold, P < 0.001) following training but remained unchanged after stanozolol treatment. Endurance capacity, assessed in a treadmill endurance test, was similar for treated and control rats. We conclude that stanozolol treatment increases antioxidant capacity in selected skeletal muscles from sedentary rats. However, the steroid was not effective in improving endurance capacity or enhancing the training effects on muscle antioxidant defence systems.