2012′s Steroid Science Stories That Slipped By

As we head off into the New Year, its time to reflect of 2012′s steroid news, both big and small. The Olympics were once again a source of steroid sporting controversy with a medal being stripped from a “manly” woman shot putter from Belaruse. Major League Baseball was also once again the scene for steroid scandal and would have been a much bigger controversy if it wasn’t overshadowed by the biggest story of the year - Lance Armstrong.

On a positive note, anabolic drugs started getting the respect they deserve in the form of testosterone replacement therapies. You can’t turn on a TV at night now without advertisements gushing about the benefits of taking testosterone for your health. Testosterone is even being tested as a sex-therapy drug for women. These were the major developments in the world of anabolic-androgenic drugs, but there were many more developments and research done on these drugs in 2012. Here’s a quick rundown on some steroid news stories that might have slipped through the cracks:

Green tea can mask the pee

picture of green tea cup

Can green tea be used to hide steroid use from urine tests?

Researchers at London’s Kingston University found that people wanting to get away with taking performance-enhancing drugs should start drinking green and white teas. According to the researchers, a compound found in green and white tea (but not in black) called catechins inhibits the enzyme in the body that releases testosterone into the urine. “The catechins stop enzymes tagging molecules for excretion so the kidneys don’t recognize them as needing to be removed and leave them circulating in the body,” explains lead researcher Professor Declan Naughton, from the University’s School of Life Sciences. “We found that green and white tea could inhibit the enzyme by about 30 per cent. The levels of catechins in a strong cup of green tea matched those we used in our experiments.”

Unfortunately for athletes on PEDs, the effect is only good for masking testosterone in he urine – blood and hair tests will still get you busted. On the bright side, the research also suggests that the body will keep more of its natural testosterone after drinking green and white tea because it isn’t excreting it in the urine.  “It’s like having extra testosterone without actually taking any,” Professor Naughton said. “By not excreting it from the body, athletes could potentially increase their testosterone levels for improved performance.”

New PED test focuses on IGF-1

In a program funded by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), three British universities have developed a new test for athletes suspected of taking performance-enhancing drugs. The new test, developed by scientists at the University of Southampton, King’s College London and University of Kent at Canterbury, is a response to the wave of new protein peptide drugs available today. It works by measuring two proteins in the blood – insulin-like growth factor-I and the amino terminal pro-peptide of type III collagen. Both of these proteins increase in response to growth hormone. The new testing method isd an improvement over previous methods because it is able to detect misuse of human growth hormone over a longer period of time compared to previous methods

The test has already had an effect on international bodybuilding sports. In September, two power-lifters competing in the Paralympic Games were given two year suspensions after the test discovered evidence of growth hormone. “Continual improvement in testing science is fundamental to the global anti-doping movement, ensuring that sophisticated dopers are caught and those at a tipping point are deterred,” said  UK Anti-Doping Chief Executive Andy Parkinson. “I am delighted that this UK developed test, which my team has been closely involved with, was used at the 2012 Paralympic Games to such good effect.”

picture of Human androgen receptor and androgen binding

Tweaking how glucocorticoids interact with androgen receptors may be the key to future weight loss drugs.

Manipulating hormone receptors key to weight loss

Researchers from Baylor College of Medicine reported in the September issue of Chemistry & Biology that they discovered that naturally occurring steroids called glucocorticoids hamper the androgen receptors that the body uses to block fat accumulation. “This has implications in this era of an obesity epidemic,” says senior author Dr. Michael Mancini, from Baylor College of Medicine. “If you can reduce glucocorticoids, you might be able to upregulate, or increase, androgen receptor activity and regulate fat storage.”

Dr. Mancini’s team discovered the link between glucocorticoids and and androgen receptors while searching for genes or signals expressed by human fat cells. Their study revealed that androgen receptors inhibit the early stages of fat maturation when the body deposits fat for storage. Androgen receptors, which normally bind with androgens like testosterone, are key in directing muscle differentiation, regulating muscle mass and increasing lean body mass. Glucocorticoids block the receptors from carrying out these functions and directly lead to the creation of fat deposits in the body, especially in the stomach area. The research points to future weight loss treatments that would regulate the activity between glucocorticoids and androgen receptors.

Performance enhancers viewed as more OK for academic than athletic pursuits

picture of adderall

College students think it is more unethical for athletes to use steroids than for students to pop stimulants like Adderall.

A research study published in the American Psychological Association journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors  found that young male college students think it is more unethical for athletes to use steroid drugs than it is for them to use stimulants while studying. The study also revealed that students who used stimulants were even more inclined to be biased toward an athlete’s use of performance enhancers and less inclined to see anything wrong with their own drug use to give them an edge in studying.

“This is consistent with the idea that using performance enhancers is viewed as less ethical in the sporting world than in the academic world,” said the study’s lead author, Tonya Dodge, PhD, of George Washington University. “Interestingly, the students in our study considered off-label prescription drug use as more effective for success than using steroids.”

The study was done at Pennsylvania State University, where around 1,200 college freshmen answered a questionaire that compared two different scenarios – one about a track and field athlete who needed to catch up on training and another about a student who needed to catch up on studying. The athlete used steroids to get in shape, the student used stimulants to cram for midterms. The athlete won his race and the student scored high in his tests. The participants in the study were then asked to judge which person was more the cheater and if they themselves had ever used steroids or stimulants, such as Adderall or Ritilan, without a prescription. They were also asked if they had played high school sports.

The results of the questionaire showed that the participants significantly viewed the athlete on steroids as more the cheater than the student on stimulants. Less than 1 percent of the participants reported using steroids, while 8 percent admitted to using stimulants. Also, students who admitted to stimulant use were especially more inclined to view the athlete as a cheater and so were students who had played high school sports. Overall, the participants viewed performance enhancing drugs in sport as cheating while using performance enhancing drugs for learning as OK.

“One reason students may have felt Adderall was more necessary than steroids for success is because people may believe intelligence is less malleable than athletic ability. This view of intelligence might have led the students in this study to believe that taking Adderall would increase intellectual capacity,” said Dodge. “This research can help mold future prevention efforts around off-label prescription stimulant use in the academic world.”

 

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