What is nandrolone?
Nandrolone is a synthetic form of the male sex hormone testosterone. It is
an anabolic steroid developed to treat diseases such as breast cancer (some
forms), patients who have lost muscle mass and those suffering from aplastic
The drug itself stimulates the production of Erythropoietin (EPO) and reverses
the breakdown of muscle tissue. It used to be injectable only but is now
available in an oral form which is obviously easier to take.
What effect do increased levels of nandrolone have on sportspeople?
There's a belief that it will enhance acute exercise performance and improve
the effectiveness of training. As an anabolic steroid similar to testosterone it
can contribute to increases in muscle mass and strength. Anabolic steroids are
generally combined with resistance training and high protein intake in the
belief that performance requiring speed, strength and power will be enhanced.
The other effect of stimulating EPO could be an increased production of red
blood cells and aerobic capacity. Because of its small androgenic effects it can
make a sports person more aggressive and competitive and it increases fatigue
resistance. So the athlete may be able to train harder for longer. Though there
are few scientific studies that indicate the performance enhancing effects of
nandrolone, the sports community believe very differently and the reason for
that is there are probably much higher doses taken than in the sports world than
there would be in trials. Athletes also take nandrolone in combination with
Why is nandrolone banned? Are there any side-effects to taking it?
It's used in normal medical practice under supervision in safe doses and
under close monitoring. It's banned in sport because it is seen as an unethical
means of gaining an advantage over others. Side effects will depend on the dose,
duration of intake, any other drug combinations and individual make-up.
One possible side effect is injury as muscle mass may develop faster than
ligaments and tendons develop and strengthen. You can also suffer an injury from
increased intensity of training. Fatigue happens for a reason and nandrolone can
prevent you from recognising the signs of fatigue.
Prolonged high doses can impair normal sex hormone production, reduce fertility,
reduce sperm concentration and even reduce testicular volume. There can also be
increased secretion of female sex hormones, which can lead to the development of
larger breasts in men. There is increased risk of coronary heart disease as
normal cholesterol metabolism is changed and it can also effect liver function
and the immune system.
How can a limit for the maximum permitted levels of nandrolone in the body be
set when it is a naturally occurring substance?
Doping with nandrolone is easily detectable and evidence that the drug has
been used can be found in an individual's urine many months after the athlete
has stopped taking it. Standard drug tests don't actually test for the drug but
for the breakdown of the drug's components. And so the drug tests have been
designed to take into account the normal levels that could be found in the
urine. Thus the fact that it is naturally occurring should not be a problem for
athletes - this is only really an issue with pregnant women.
Confusion has arisen because similar breakdown products to nandrolone can be
found in the urine after taking certain birth control pills and potentially in
certain eye drops. There has been some recognition that it is possible to
produce the same products through the body's natural steroid breakdown process.
There can also of course be contamination through the food chain. The maximum
levels for doping have been set with all these things in mind.
With many athletes protesting their innocence, is there a case for changing
the permitted levels of nandrolone in the body?
Knowledge is increasing but scientists don't fully understand the breakdown
processes of nandrolone and where else it can be produced from. Certain drug
supplements and medication may contain similar substances and precursers to
nandrolone. Although these things form nandrolone in the body, they may not be
on the banned list. There is a lot of recognition that a lot of precursers to
nandrolone are being imported into the USA and there are a number of similar
steroid substances advertised on the internet. It may also be possible that
substances could enter the body from eating meat taken from animals that have
been injected with steroids. In terms of nandrolone at the moment there's no
evidence that the body's natural production can reach the limits set.
More research needs to be done. With better
scientific understanding there will be less risk of making false accusations.
Why do you think that there have been a clutch of recent cases? Is it because
its use is increasing or is it just because there are better testing procedures?
Nandrolone was the drug of choice for bodybuilders, weightlifters and other
athletes in the 60s and 70s and it lost popularity because it was easily
detected. The high number of recent cases may be because there's been an oral
form developed and for many people that is preferable to injecting the drug and
also means that it breaks down more quickly. It is also possible that a number
of athletes are taking the nandrolone precursors and are not aware of this but
it is also likely that with the new forms around people aren't aware of the
clearance time (how long it takes for all traces of nandrolone to filter out of
your system) so they're just getting caught. The internet which provides
increased access. Finally, in the USA a number of products advertised as
supplements were found to have nandrolone in them when they were supposed to be
It is even possible that natural production in the body is being stimulated by a
source we don't know about and societal changes are responsible for some of the
current cases - further investigation is clearly required.
From the Ultimate Guide to Anabolic Steroids,
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