Baseline characteristics of the HAARLEM study: 100 male amateur athletes using anabolic androgenic steroids

Diederik L. Smit, Olivier de Hon, Bastiaan J. Venhuis, Martin den Heijer, Willem de Ronde

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Background: The use of anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS) is common among visitors of fitness centers. Knowledge about health risks of AAS use is limited due to lack of clinical studies. Methods: One hundred men, at least 18 years old, intending to start a cycle of AAS were recruited. Baseline demographical data and reasons for AAS use were recorded. Subjects provided samples of AAS for analysis with UPLC-QTOF-MS/MS. Results: One hundred and eleven men were seen for a baseline visit. Nineteen percent had competed in bodybuilding competitions. Recent illicit drug use was reported by 56%. Seventy-seven percent of participants had used AAS in the past, and 97% of them had experienced side effects. After exclusion, 100 men comprised the cohort for follow-up. The AAS cycle performed had a median duration of 13 weeks (range 2-52), and the average dose of AAS equivalents was 901 mg per week (range 250-3.382). Subjects used other performance and image–enhancing drugs (PIEDs) such as growth hormone (21%). In total, 272 AAS samples were analyzed and 47% contained the AAS indicated on the label. The principal reason for AAS use was gain of muscle mass (44%). Forty-eight percent self-reported to being addicted to AAS. Conclusion: The HAARLEM study cohort shows that strength athletes use AAS in a wide variety of cycles and often also use illicit drugs and other potentially harmful PIEDs. The quality of the AAS used is strikingly low. Follow-up of the cohort will provide novel data regarding health risks of AAS use.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)531-539
Number of pages9
JournalScandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020


  • bodybuilding
  • doping in sports
  • hypogonadism
  • illicit drug use
  • performance and image–enhancing drugs (PIEDs)
  • strength training

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