Background: Doping with anabolic androgenic steroids in sports has now developed to a widespread use of these agents among young people outside the sport. This is of major concern to the society. The purpose of the use is mainly for aesthetic reasons and is seen as a male phenomenon. But use also occurs in women where the knowledge is scarce. Our aim was to identify the pattern of doping agents in eight female cases and compare them with similar data from men.
Methods: Eight female users were recruited through Anti-Doping Hot-Line, a national telephone counseling service on doping issues during the years 1998-2004. The use was confirmed with urine doping analysis at the Doping Laboratory. The characteristic of use, co-use of narcotics/other doping agents, exercise pattern, adverse-side effects, family history and reason to begin was evaluated.
Results: The women used on average 1.9 different anabolic androgenic steroids and clenbuterol preparations. Ephedrine and growth hormone were co-used in five and one of the women, respectively. Three women reported co-use of narcotics (cannabis and cocaine). The average duration of anabolic agent use before contacting health care was 58 weeks (range 7-104). Side effects for anabolic androgenic steroids (n = 5) included voice changes, clitoral enlargement, body hair growth, whereas women using clenbuterol (n = 2) reported tachycardia and depression. All women except one had a man in close relationship encouraging them to begin with the doping agents.
Conclusions: The use of doping agents in our eight women was different from that in male users. The women used less doping agents and were more prone to contact the health care, at an earlier stage, probably due to the adverse effects. The co-use with ephedrine, growth hormone and cannabis appeared to be in the same range as in men. This is the first study showing that a man in close relationship may motivate a woman to use anabolic agents.