Knowing your supplements can help you avoid a positive nandrolone test

Last week, FIFA announced that the Netherlands' Edgar Davids and Portuguese national team captain Fernando Couto were among eight players in the Italian Serie A league who tested positive for the steroid nandrolone and have been suspended from international play.

Davids' Dutch teammate Frank De Boer is also under investigation. Positive tests for nandrolone in sports have become almost epidemic and routinely make front-page news.

The typical routine is first Im innocent because some diet guru gave them some tainted supplement. Then there is some suspension that the athlete protests, asks for an appeal, then ends up serving. There is no sport governing body that accepts ignorance as an excuse: You took it, you tested positive, you shouldve known, you are suspended.

So why do athletes test positive for nandrolone? Dietary supplements are being blamed, and many athletes have said the drug or precursors of the drug found in urine samples may have been present in food supplements, as they have "never" taken an anabolic steroid.

So what is nandrolone? Its a prescription anabolic-androgenic steroid that was popular among strength athletes as far back as the 1970s due to its effectiveness in producing muscle growth and speeding recovery with minimal side effects. Unlike testosterone, this synthetic steroid has strong anabolic properties (muscle building), but only moderate androgenic properties (secondary male sex characteristics).

Medically, nandrolone is used in anemia or selected kidney disorders. Nandrolone also can increase hemoglobin and red blood cell mass, making it popular with endurance athletes.

Nandrolone use declined quickly when it was added to the drug-testing list in 1975. Even in incredibly small amounts, nandrolone is detectable in the body. Therefore, a urine sample may be positive for 60 days or more after the last dose. Thats why athletes get caught on random drug tests.

While nandrolone is produced in small amounts by the body itself, laboratories accredited by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) reported over 300 positive tests for nandrolone in a variety of sports. The labs say the amounts detected far exceed that produced naturally. Nandrolone and its metabolites are tested in the laboratory by a method called gas chromatography/mass spectroscopy and is accurate over 99 percent of the time. The false positive rate is less than 1 in 10,000 tests.

If nandrolone is on the banned list and being so easily detected, isnt it odd that athletes suddenly are testing positive for nandrolone? Do you really believe that they are consciously testing their fates with this drug in the name of greater glory? Something else must be going on, leading to all these positive tests.

This increase could be explained by newer "nutritional supplements" that can be purchased over the counter in many stores and over the Internet. These supplements are termed "prohormones."

A prohormone is any steroid-like substance that even remotely resembles testosterone and might serve as a building block for testosterone. They also refer to any steroid-like substance that might exert an anabolic and/or androgenic action similar to testosterone or one of its synthetic derivatives.

So why does taking prohormone supplements lead to positive tests for a prescription anabolic steroid on the order of nandrolone? The public's awareness of these substances was raised with androstenedione, used by baseball player Mark McGwire, and androstenediol. When the first of these prohormones were released, the scientific community found that these substances converted mostly to the female hormone estrogen and not into testosterone.

In men, high levels of estrogen relative to testosterone have been associated with a variety of abnormalities including heart disease, prostate problems and breast development. So in response to these potential health problems the supplement industry came up with the so-called "19-Nor" prohormones.

For you organic chemists, the modified prohormones androstenedione and androstenediol lack a carbon group at position number 19 on the steroid backbone. At best, they are distant cousins of testosterone, and more closely resemble nandrolone; also a 19-nor substance. However, unlike the nonprescription 19-nors, nandrolone is only available with a prescription because it is a proven anabolic steroid.

In fact, both 19-norandrostenedione and 19-norandrostenediol (two popular over-the-counter 19-nor prohormones) so closely resemble nandrolone in structure that they are either identified in the body as nandrolone or can actually become nandrolone once in the system.

Herein lies the problem for athletes. To athletes wanting more muscle mass, this looks like a dream: essentially an over-the-counter nandrolone. Muscle mass and no prescription. However, athletes competing in competitions where drug testing is performed are only asking to get caught.

So are athletes coming up positive because they are taking a "supplement," or are they actually taking the banned substance nandrolone? What difference does it make? Both they and their team suffer.

The bottom line: No professional and Olympic athlete should take these supplements, because their urine will test positive for nandrolone in as little as three days and for as long as 60 or more days. Here is a quote from a Web site selling these products: The product has a very long half life and should be discontinued at least 60 days prior to being drug tested.

The moral of the story: Stay informed. Read labels and know what you are taking in supplement form. I even saw an Internet company whose creatine monohydrate is boosted with a 19-Nor additive.

Just because something is sold over the counter or by mail order and labeled as natural does not mean it is safe to use and most of all, it could lead to a positive drug test.

Any supplement that includes the following ingredients should be avoided. Lists like these are never complete, so check with appropriate authorities before taking any supplement reported to be a natural muscle-building substance.

Dehydroepiandrostenedione (DHEA)

Some products that contain ingredients that could trigger a positive test for nandrolone include:

Ingredient: Digydroepiandrostendione (DHEA)
Products: Twinlab 7-Ketofuel, Twinlab Growth Fuel, Twinlab DHEA Fuel, Twinlab Tribulus Fuel stack, Olympian Labs DHEA, Muscle Tech Anotesten

Ingredient: Androstenedione
Products: Champion Androstendione, Muscle Tech Anotesten, Muscle Tech Nortestin, Cytodyne Androdyne, Olympian Labs Androstene Power, Twinlab 7-Ketofuel

Ingredient: Androstenediol
Products: ASN Maxabol, GEN Cyclodex 4-Adiol, Muscle Tech Acetabol ANII, Muscle Tech Anotesten, Cytodyne Tech Androdyne

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