Anabolic steroids detected in bodybuilding dietary supplements - a significant risk to public health

Drug Test Anal. 2015 Jul;7(7):609-18. doi: 10.1002/dta.1728. Epub 2014 Oct 6.


Twenty-four products suspected of containing anabolic steroids and sold in fitness equipment shops in the United Kingdom (UK) were analyzed for their qualitative and semi-quantitative content using full scan gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS), accurate mass liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS), high pressure liquid chromatography with diode array detection (HPLC-DAD), UV-Vis, and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. In addition, X-ray crystallography enabled the identification of one of the compounds, where reference standard was not available. Of the 24 products tested, 23 contained steroids including known anabolic agents; 16 of these contained steroids that were different to those indicated on the packaging and one product contained no steroid at all. Overall, 13 different steroids were identified; 12 of these are controlled in the UK under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. Several of the products contained steroids that may be considered to have considerable pharmacological activity, based on their chemical structures and the amounts present. This could unwittingly expose users to a significant risk to their health, which is of particular concern for naïve users.

Keywords: X-ray crystallography; anabolic steroids; dietary supplements; hepatotoxicity; image-enhancing drugs; performance-enhancing drugs.

MeSH terms

  • Anabolic Agents / analysis*
  • Chromatography, Liquid / methods
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Dietary Supplements / adverse effects
  • Dietary Supplements / analysis*
  • Doping in Sports*
  • Public Health / trends*
  • Risk Factors
  • Steroids / adverse effects
  • Steroids / analysis*
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry / methods
  • Weight Lifting*


  • Anabolic Agents
  • Steroids