Do anabolic-androgenic steroids have performance-enhancing effects in female athletes?

Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2018 Mar 15;464:56-64. doi: 10.1016/j.mce.2017.07.010. Epub 2017 Jul 12.


Doping with anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) is common among both male and female athletes and is a growing public health problem. Review of historical data of systematic state-sponsored doping programs implemented by the German Democratic Republic in elite female athletes and from clinical trials of testosterone administration in non-athlete women suggests that AAS have ergogenic effects in women. The use of AAS in female athletes has been associated with adverse effects that include acne, hirsutism, deepening of the voice and menstrual disturbances; life-threatening adverse effects such as cardiac arrhythmias and sudden death have also been reported. Therefore, detection of AAS abuse in female athletes is important to ensure fairness in competition; at the same time, the athletes should be educated regarding the adverse consequences of AAS use. Although administration of exogenous androgens have been associated with ergogenic effects, it remains unclear whether endogenous hyperandrogenism seen in some medical conditions such as disorders of sexual development (DSD), congenital adrenal hyperplasia and polycystic ovary syndrome, confers any competitive advantage. Well-designed studies are needed to determine the effects of endogenous hyperandrogenism on athletic performance in female athletes.

Keywords: Adverse effects; Anabolic steroids; Hyperandrogenism; Muscle performance; Testosterone.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anabolic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Androgens / pharmacology*
  • Athletes*
  • Athletic Performance
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Performance-Enhancing Substances / pharmacology*
  • Steroids / pharmacology*


  • Anabolic Agents
  • Androgens
  • Performance-Enhancing Substances
  • Steroids