In the famous Marvel comic books and movies “Captain America,” a small and weak army soldier takes a series of injections that gives him permanent strength and agility – literally, a forever-lasting performance-enhancing drug. Although Captain America’s super hero strength and lightning reflexes are still the stuff of comic book fantasy, new research suggests the permanent part of taking performance enhancing drugs is already here.
According to a study conducted by the University of Oslo and published in the Journal of Physiology, even brief exposure to anabolic steroids can create lasting effects in muscle fibers. Researchers discovered that muscles that have been exposed to steroids develop a “memory” that allows them to build more muscle mass even years after the initial exposure.
“Mice were briefly exposed to steroids which resulted in increased muscle mass and number of cell nuclei in the muscle fibers,” said Professor Kristen Gunderson. “Three months after withdrawal of the drug (approximately 15% of a mouse’s life span) their muscles grew by 30% over six days following load exercise. The untreated mice grew insignificantly. The results in our mice may correspond to the effects of steroids lasting for decades in humans given the same cellular ‘muscle memory’ mechanism.”
If these results prove true in humans there are so many questions related to steroid use that will need to be addresses or reexamined. For one, what will the Anti Doping Agency make of these results? If an athlete is found using steroids, or is known to have used steroids ever, will he/she be permanently banned because any steroid use is now an advantage no matter how long ago a person took them?
Steroid users will also need to reexamine the levels of steroids they take. Is it necessary to cycle and stack so many times and with so many compounds when the effects of just one or two cycles have lasting effects?
One thing is for certain, if these results hold true for humans, there will be a lot more people looking to become a Captain America.