The truth about steroids

What are steroids?

Anabolic androgenic steroids are synthetic hormones designed to mimic the effects of testosterone – increased muscle mass and strength – in the body. Data from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) tells us that steroids consistently account for more positive tests than any other type of substance. Pre-COVID, steroids were responsible for around 1,400 positives per year with stanozolol, drostanolone, metandienone (Dianabol) and exogenous (i.e. not natural) testosterone among those responsible for the most positive tests.

But what role do they play in sport? Why do athletes continue to take them? And how safe are they really?

Banned in sport; illegal without prescription 

Steroids are banned in sport at all times. You can face severe penalties for having them, taking them, buying them or distributing them as per the Sports Anti-Doping Rules - which apply to everyone who plays sport, at all levels of competition.

It’s illegal to possess, use, import or supply steroids in Aotearoa New Zealand without a prescription.

A dangerous shortcut

Medically, steroids are used to treat disorders like delayed puberty and muscle-wasting illnesses. They have ‘masculinising’ effects like deepening the voice and increasing facial hair; and can increase muscle mass and strength. 

Athletes looking to cheat abuse steroids to improve their sporting performance – to bulk up and boost strength to get an edge over competitors. They’re also misused outside of sport to improve physical appearance, being seen as shortcuts to a lean, muscular and “shredded” Insta-worthy physique.

But they’re a dangerous shortcut and their use violates anti-doping rules. Misusing steroids can get you banned from all sport, no matter your level of sport or reason for taking them. And facing an anti-doping sanction can damage your relationships, your financial stability, your sporting career and your future prospects.

Serious health consequences 

Worse than facing an anti-doping sanction is facing the damage steroids can do to your body and your mental health.

Taking anabolic steroids can cause severe reactions in the heart (sometimes even fatal), liver damage and psyhiatric events. But the consequences for your health don’t end there:




  • shrunken testicles

  • impotence

  • reduced sperm count

  • erectile dysfunction

  • male-pattern baldness

  • breast development

  • increased risk of prostate cancer.

  • changes to menstruation

  • hair growth on the face and chest

  • deepened voice

  • enlarged clitoris

  • stunted growth


Sanctions in Aotearoa New Zealand 

In Aotearoa New Zealand, four athletes have been sanctioned for steroids since 2019. One of those – a Kiwi wrestler – even lost his chance to compete at the Tokyo Olympics through his abuse of stanozolol.

Using anabolic steroids can and does lead to anti-doping sanctions, whether you’re a weekend warrior or an Olympic hopeful. Taking them is a dangerous shortcut that can lead to loss of reputation, relationships, financial stability and ruin your prospects in and out of sport. But the greatest damage may be the disastrous consequences that anabolic steroids can have on your physical and mental health.

Speak out

If you’ve seen someone using steroids, or suspect that they are, you can report your concerns to us in confidence.