“Will steroids kill me if I use them once?” A qualitative analysis of inquiries submitted to the Danish anti-doping authorities

19 Jun 2012

“Will steroids kill me if I use them once?” A qualitative analysis of inquiries submitted to the Danish anti-doping authorities / Ask Vest Christiansen, Jens Bojsen-Møller. - (Performance Enhancement & Health 1 (2012) 1 (August); p. 39-47).
- https://doi.org/10.1016/j.peh.2012.05.002


Background: The Danish strategy for fighting the use of anabolic androgenic steroids in fitness centres is likely the most comprehensive of its sort in the world. It is instituted in the national anti doping organisation, Anti Doping Denmark (ADD), and consists of doping controls, educational campaigns, and anonymous counselling through a web-based email service.

Aim and method: Inquiries that were submitted to ADD’s web-based counselling service over an 18-month period were explored with the aim to identify and analyse differences in concerns and approach to the counselling service. Two categories of inquiries were the focus of attention: (1) those addressing side effects of anabolic steroids and (2) those addressing concerns for receiving a positive doping test after the use of supplements.

Results and discussion: In the first category four different types of approaches were identified and inquirers’ concerns analysed: (a) those that lacked knowledge on anabolic steroids, (b) those that had experienced side effects, (c) those that expressed knowledge of anabolic steroids, and (d) those that presented potential harm reduction dilemmas for the service. The second category revealed noteworthy concerns as a result of the legislation on the issue.

Conclusion: The approach to the counselling service and the knowledge of health consequences of the drugs consumed differed substantially between the two categories and groups of inquiries.

Implications: In order to educate the target group about anabolic steroids there is a need for the involved organisations to consider harm reduction policies in adjunct with the often applied zero tolerance approach.

“The process isn’t a case of report it and stop”: Athletes’ lived experience of whistleblowing on doping in sport

11 Dec 2018

“The process isn’t a case of report it and stop” : Athletes’ lived experience of whistleblowing on doping in sport / Kelsey Erickson, Laurie B. Patterson, Susan H. Backhouse

  • Sport Management Review 22 (November 2019), p. 724-735
  • DOI: 10.1016/j.smr.2018.12.001


Whistleblowing is effective for exposing doping in sport, garnering increased support and promotion within the global anti-doping community. However, limited attention has been afforded towards understanding the doping whistleblowing process. In response, the authors convey a sense of the whistleblowing context by using the actual words of whistleblowers to illuminate their experience. To achieve this aim, the authors have adopted a narrative approach. Three doping whistleblowers were interviewed regarding their lived experiences of whistleblowing on doping and the data has been represented in the form of one composite creative non-fiction story. The story narrates the whistleblowing experience as a process whereby individuals must (a) determine what they witnessed and experienced was doping, (b) make the decision and take action to report it, and (c) deal with the myriad of consequences and emotions. It also highlights the dilemma faced by whistleblowers who are likely equally compelled to adhere to the moral of loyalty and fairness; yet in this context they are unable to do both. Stemming from the story presented and the forms of retribution experienced, the authors offer practical suggestions for sporting organisations to address in order to empower others to whistleblow on doping in sport. Specifically, organisations should establish and implement whistleblowing policies that: (a) provide protection for whistleblowers, (b) mandate whistleblowing education, and (c) identify an independent person for individuals to seek guidance and support from before, during and following the act of whistleblowing.

“Raw juicing” – an online study of the home manufacture of anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS) for injection in contemporary performance and image enhancement (PIED) culture

6 Dec 2017

“Raw juicing” : an online study of the home manufacture of anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS) for injection in contemporary performance and image enhancement (PIED) culture / Rebekah Brennan, John S.G. Wells, Marie Claire Van Hout

  • Performance Enhancement & Health 6 (2018) 1 (March); p. 21-27)
  • DOI: 10.1016/j.peh.2017.11.001



New evidence with regard to an under documented practice – the home manufacture of anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS) for injection, known as ‘homebrewing’ – in contemporary injecting performance and image enhancing drug (PIED) culture is the subject of this paper.


Data was collected from five publicly accessible internet discussion forums and coded using NVivo software. For the purposes of this study, threads in relation to homebrewing (n = 14) were extracted from the final set of records for ethnographic content analysis.

Motivation to perform homebrewing was largely grounded in the circumnavigation of unreliable online sourcing routes for AAS products, financial losses and potential harms associated with contaminated and counterfeit injectables. Instructions on how to perform homebrewing were found within discussion threads. Identified areas of concern included potential for sterility and dosing issues, injecting harms, isolation from health services.


This study provides a snapshot of online communal activity around practice of homebrewing AAS amongst individuals who inject AAS. Further research in this area is warranted, and will be of benefit to healthcare workers, treatment providers and policy makers particularly as this relates to evidence informed and targeted harm reduction policies and effective public health interventions.

“No pain, no gainz”? Performance and image-enhancing drugs, health effects and information seeking

17 Aug 2016

“No pain, no gainz”? Performance and image-enhancing drugs, health effects and information seeking / Rachel Rowe, Israel Berger, Jan Copeland. - (Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy 24 (2017) 5; p. 400-408)

  • DOI: 10.1080/09687637.2016.1207752


Background: A range of indicators point to an international increase in the prevalence of performance and image-enhancing drugs (PIEDs) use, predominantly among young men. Attention to PIEDs-related benefits, adverse health effects, information and health service access are needed. Methods: A cross-sectional survey of 605 men who inject PIEDs was conducted at nine primary needle and syringe programme locations across five local health districts in Sydney. Results: Among anabolic–androgenic steroids (AAS) users (n =  564), anger, rage or irritability (27%, 95%CI: 23.4–30.6) and sexual or genital problems (26.4%, 95%CI: 22.9–30.0) were the most commonly reported adverse health effects. Taking regular, longer breaks between AAS cycles were associated with reduced reports of some adverse effects. Approaching two-thirds of participants had told a doctor about using PIEDs (63.1%, 95%CI: 59.1–67.1). However, as length of time since first injecting PIEDs increased, participants’ perceptions of doctors as reliable information sources decreased (rho = −0.10, p = 0.04). Reliance on lay information sources was very common, particularly among people who spoke languages other than English. Conclusions: This study supports providing information on cycle lengths and break periods as part of standard PIEDs-related harm reduction guidelines. Safe injecting and dosage education through peer networks or steroid clinics may be useful strategies.

“Brain-Doping,” Is It a Real Threat?

24 Apr 2019

“Brain-Doping,” Is It a Real Threat? / Darías Holgado, Miguel A. Vadillo, Daniel Sanabria. - (Frontiers in Physiology 10 (2019) 483 (24 April); p. 1-2).
- PMCID: PMC6491773.
- PMID: 31068840.
- DOI: 10.3389/fphys.2019.00483


Since the term “Neurodoping” was introduced, the use of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) has gained popularity in Sports Science within a short space of time, based on the same straightforward logic: if exercise is to some extent determined by brain activity, then stimulating brain areas related to exercise should improve physical and sport performance. In fact, companies like Halo Sport claim that their “do-it-yourself” tDCS device has ergogenic effects and can increase sport and exercise performance. In a recent review in Frontiers in Physiology, Angius et al. suggested that tDCS might have a positive effect on exercise capacity, although the mechanisms of that potential benefit were unknown. However, the expectations derived from those initial studies showing tDCS as an effective technique to increase exercise performance or reduce rate of perceived exertion (RPE), have left room for many others that do not seem to support the effectiveness of tDCS in the Sports science.

“Athlete suspended for presence of banned substance”: A storied approach to protecting student-athletes from doping in sport

5 Aug 2019

“Athlete suspended for presence of banned substance” : A storied approach to protecting student-athletes from doping in sport / Kelsey Erickson

  • Journal for the Study of Sports and Athletes in Education 13 (2019) 3,  p. 214-234
  • DOI: 10.1080/19357397.2019.1648149


Banned substance use is a growing issue among student-athlete populations but limited research has addressed this concern. The aim of this research was therefore to explore the lived experience of a sanctioned student-athlete in order to expose the contexts and experiences surrounding their sanction and illuminate student-athlete specific doping risk factors. A narrative approach was adopted and one male student-athlete (“Tyler”) serving a doping sanction was interviewed. Data is presented in the form of a creative non-fiction story. The story demonstrates the interplay between multiple risk factors that ultimately combined and led to Tyler’s doping sanction. Injury and supplementation emerged as particularly significant, as did Tyler’s family life. Informed by the story presented, practical implications are offered for supporting student-athletes in avoiding banned substance use. It is hoped that the story will trigger a critical conversation and collective effort towards proactively protecting student-athletes from their doping susceptibility.

‘Steroids, it’s so much an identity thing!’ perceptions of steroid use, risk and masculine body image

31 Mar 2015

‘Steroids, it’s so much an identity thing!’ perceptions of steroid use, risk and masculine body image / Signe Ravn and Julia Coffey
In: Journal of youth studies, 2015 [published online]

This paper explores how taste and distaste, body image and masculinity play into young people’s perceptions of risk related to steroid use.
Data is drawn from a qualitative study on risk-taking among 52 Danish youths enrolled in high school or vocational training. A number of ‘risky’ practices such as drug use, fights, speeding etc. were discussed. In contrast to these practices which were primarily described in relation to ‘physical risks’, steroid use was understood as part of an ‘identity’ or ‘lifestyle’ in a way these other risks were not. Few interviewees had used steroids, and the large majority distanced themselves from the practice. Reasons for not wanting to use steroids were related to a) perceiving the drug to be part of a broader lifestyle and identity that they are not interested in committing to or embodying and b) finding the body image, physicality and associations with steroid use ‘fake’, ‘gross’ and distasteful. We draw on recent developments in feminist sociological theory related to the gendered body as both a performance and process to understand steroid use as a practice through which the body and self is produced. More than a one-dimensional ‘risky’ practice, we argue that gendered and embodied identities are crucial to understanding the dynamics of steroid use.

‘Shades of Grey’ : The Ethics of Social Work Practice in Relation to Un-prescribed Anabolic Androgenic Steroid Use

23 Dec 2018

‘Shades of Grey’: The Ethics of Social Work Practice in Relation to Un-prescribed Anabolic Androgenic Steroid Use / Orlanda Harvey

  • Practice : Social Work in Action 30 (2019) 4, p. 239-258
  • DOI: 10.1080/09503153.2018.1510480


This paper reflects on some of the ethical dilemmas that social workers face when assessing risk in relation to those using substances. It explores how legislation and societal factors can impact not just on people’s choices and decisions but also on their ‘vulnerability’ and access to services. Vulnerability, a contested term, is linked, in this paper, to assessment of risk. There are ethical issues that arise when assessing risk with people who use Anabolic Androgenic Steroids (AAS) from both service user and professional perspectives. These ethical issues concern a person’s right to choose and make potentially harmful decisions. The paper argues that using substances such as AAS in and of itself does not suffice to make a person vulnerable but this does not mean that people using AAS are not in need of support. It suggests that there may be some groups of people who are more at risk to starting AAS use and that social workers should be aware of these. It also recommends the need for further qualitative research to understand the reasons for starting use and support to help people stop using AAS.


Anabolic Androgenic Steroids (AAS) Image and Performance Enhancing Drugs (IPED) social work substance use ethics vulnerability body imageme dialegislation risk

‘I’d struggle to see it as cheating’: the policy and regulatory environments of study drug use at universities

23 Mar 2020

‘I’d struggle to see it as cheating’ : the policy and regulatory environments of study drug use at universities / Matthew Dunn, Phillip Dawson, Margaret Bearman, Joanna Taia

  • Higher Education Research & Development 40 (2021) 2 (23 March), p. 234-246
  • DOI: 10.1080/07294360.2020.1738351


Students use various licit and illicit substances to enhance their academic performance. As yet, no study has explored whether this is an issue of concern for those working in the higher education sector. This study aimed to explore study drug policy, regulatory environments and responses within Australian universities. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 14 participants from five Australian universities. Nine participants were based in school/department, faculty, or institutional head of teaching and learning roles; six participants were in student support roles. Eight participants had direct teaching experience. Three themes emerged from the data analysis. Study drug use was seen as a health problem rather than a threat to academic integrity. Participants believed that attributes of the university setting may facilitate study drug use, but also considered that some attributes may prevent the uptake of use, such as a stronger emphasis on universities promoting the benefits of a balanced lifestyle.

‘It was my thought … he made it a reality’: Normalization and responsibility in athletes’ accounts of performance enhancing drug use

30 Apr 2012

‘It was my thought … he made it a reality’ : Normalization and responsibility in athletes’ accounts of performance enhancing drug use / Evdokia Pappa, Eileen Kennedy. - (International Review for the Sociology of Sport 48 (2013) 3 (1 June); p. 277-294)

  • DOI: 10.1177/1012690212442116


Despite the widespread interest in athletes’ use of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) in track and field, the voices of the athletes who use banned substances have seldom been heard. Interviews with competitive athletes were conducted to explore their relationship to doping. Two themes emerged from the interviews. Firstly, the athletes presented doping as a normalized part of competitive sport, inevitably involving the participation of coaching staff. Secondly, and in contrast to the first theme, athletes maintained that they alone were responsible for the decision to use PEDs. The study supports the ‘networked athlete’ explanation of PED use, while highlighting the individualist explanation of doping offered by the athletes themselves. Foucault’s concept of governmentality is used to explain this contradiction, by suggesting that athletes’ internalization of responsibility for doping is part of the art of governing competitive sport.

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