SARMS: Unsafe. Illegal. Banned in sport.

Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators (SARMs) are experimental drugs. It’s claimed that they build muscle mass and bone density, and that they do it without the side effects of steroids. But SARMs haven’t been fully studied. What we do know about them tells us that, despite the hype, SARMs pose a very real risk to health.

Despite this, the presence of SARMs is increasing. Testing figures from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) show that they’ve been responsible for an increasing number of positive tests since 2010. We’re worried that athletes – especially recreational athletes – may not be aware of the risks involved in taking these substances. That’s concerning, particularly because the consequences of SARM use can be so serious: athletes at any level who buy, possess or use SARMs could face an anti-doping rule violation and a ban from all sport.

There are many different types of SARMs, and many have multiple names. The most commonly abused SARMs are Ligandrol (LGD-4033), Ostarine (Enobosarm, S-22 or MK-2866) and Andarine (S-4). Other examples include Testolone (RAD140), S23 and YK11.

Unsafe for human consumption

SARMs haven’t completed clinical trials and haven’t been approved for use in humans. That’s why they’re often marketed online as research chemicals, with ‘For Research Purposes Only’ on the label. Although they’re claimed to have fewer side effects than steroids, we know that SARMs pose a serious health risk. Their known side effects can be life-threatening, from liver damage to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. The long-term side-effects, or the way they interact with other substances (e.g. alcohol), are unknown.

Prohibited in sport and illegal in NZ

SARMs are prohibited in sport at all times (both in- and out-of-competition) under Section S1.2 of the WADA Prohibited List. SARMs are also illegal in New Zealand.

Being illegal means that they’re often purchased like anabolic steroids: online and through the black market. There’s no way to tell what’s really in products sold in this way. They might not contain SARMs at all, or they might be contaminated with other ingredients that are likewise dangerous, illegal and/or banned in sport. An American study showed this to be the case: they found that almost 50% of the SARMs products they bought online didn’t contain any SARMs at all.

Proven supplement contaminants

Simple, you may think. I’ll just avoid products that contain SARMs.

Unfortunately, if you take supplements then that may not be enough. Despite the fact that SARMs aren’t legal in supplements, supplements may contain them anyway – whether intentionally or through contamination. There are multiple examples of athletes being sanctioned due to SARM-contaminated supplements – particularly ostarine. Consider the cases of CrossFit athlete Larissa Cunha, of Triathlete Lauren Barnett (who is sueing the supplement company that manufactured the contaminated products) and of UFC fighter Jimmy Wallhead.

We advocate for a food-first approach to nutrition. Before you consider using any supplements, make sure you understand the risks. Our advice on supplements can help.


SARMs are banned in sport at all times. They have serious health consequences and are illegal in New Zealand. Taking SARMs can and does lead to sanctioning - but the greatest damage may be the devastating impact that using SARMs, or being sanctioned, can have on your health and wellbeing.

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