1. The cortisol status (total plasma cortisol concentration, free cortisol concentration, transcortin capacity) and the characteristics of skeletal muscle binding for cortisol and dexamethasone were examined in female lambs either implanted with Zeranol or trenbolone acetate or whose dietary intake was restricted. 2. The skeletal muscle glucocorticoid receptor had a high affinity for the glucocorticoid triamcinolone (relative binding affinity 0.85) and cortisol (relative binding affinity 0.51) with virtually no affinity for trenbolone. 3. Trenbolone acetate treatment reduced the binding capacity of sheep skeletal muscle for cortisol within 2 d of implantation. The other treatments had little effect except a small reduction in the animals where food intake was restricted. Similarly, binding capacity for dexamethasone was reduced by trenbolone acetate treatment but was not affected by the other treatments. This reduction in trenbolone acetate-treated animals is, at least in part, due to a reduction in glucocorticoid receptors. 4. Transcortin capacity was elevated by Zeranol treatment but reduced with diet restriction or trenbolone treatment. 5. No support for the suggestion of free cortisol concentration being important in the growth-promoting mechanism of trenbolone or Zeranol was obtained. 6. Although insulin concentrations were not significantly altered by treatment (P greater than 0.05), when combining all the animals there was evidence of a negative correlation between total cortisol/insulin value (P less than 0.05) or free cortisol:insulin value and growth rate (P less than 0.001). Free cortisol was negatively correlated to growth rate (P less than 0.05) and transcortin capacity positively correlated (P less than 0.01).