Strategies that athletes use to avoid detection of androgenic-anabolic steroid doping and sanctions

Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2018 Mar 15;464:28-33. doi: 10.1016/j.mce.2017.01.028. Epub 2017 Jan 24.


Androgenic-anabolic steroids (AAS) are potent and widely used performance-enhancing substances (PES). Since the International Olympic Committee (IOC) began testing athletes for AAS in the 1970s, athletes and their teams have endeavored to beat the system to avoid doping violations and/or sanctions derived from positive test results. This review will discuss the strategies used to avoid detection based on the pharmacology, biochemistry, and genetics of AAS metabolism and testing principles. Another strategy used is to dope with testosterone under the guise that the athlete has a true medical condition that requires testosterone treatment, using the therapeutic use exemption (TUE) mechanism. Misrepresentation in TUE applications is extending to amateur athletes, as testosterone prescription outside of FDA guidance increases and sport organizations broaden their efforts to police doping at all levels of competition. Strict criteria are enforced under which a TUE for testosterone use may be granted, to maintain the integrity of sport. The challenge of upholding a zero-tolerance policy for AAS abuse, despite popular misconceptions of androgen physiology and pervasive attempts to dope among athletes and physicians, remains a daunting and evolving task for the anti-doping community.

Keywords: Androgen; Designer steroid; Diuretic; Doping; Masking; Therapeutic use exemption.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anabolic Agents / metabolism
  • Anabolic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Androgens / metabolism
  • Androgens / pharmacology*
  • Athletes*
  • Doping in Sports* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Humans


  • Anabolic Agents
  • Androgens