Testosterone enhancement is the illegal use of anabolic steroids to boost athletic performance. Anabolic steroids are male sex hormones, collectively known as androgens. Although illegal, these hormones are frequently taken by athletes to build more muscle and endurance than would be impossible to produce through legal ergogenic aids or training. The most popular and well-known anabolic steroid is testosterone, a synthetic chemical that imitates the effects of naturally produced human male hormones.
Physicians began prescribing anabolic steroids for a number of legitimated medical purposes in the 1940s. Athletes quickly began using anabolic steroids for another purpose: to boost their athletic performance. In 1991, Congress placed anabolic steroids as a class of drugs into the Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). This legislation was signed into law after years of concern over a growing illicit market, abuse by teenagers, and the uncertainty of possible harmful long-term effects of steroid use. The CSA defines anabolic steroids as any drug or hormonal substance chemically and pharmacologically related to testosterone (other than estrogens, progestins, and corticosteroids) that promotes muscle growth. Prohormones, precursors of testosterone, are also classified as controlled substances as of the Anabolic Steroids Act of 2004. Their use to boost athletic performance is also illegal.
Anabolic steroids offer athletes an unfair advantage and are banned by all major sporting organizations. Athletes are regularly screened for such illegal methods in professional sports and the Olympics. The use of illegal ergogenic aids also occurs at high school levels. Organizations such as the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) have initiated extensive public outreach campaigns to educate and dissuade athletes from using steroids or blood doping.
In recent years, physicians have prescribed anabolic steroids to maintain muscle mass in AIDS patients, to induce male puberty, and to assist in the transition of female to male transgendered individuals diagnosed with gender dysmorphia. In all cases, anabolic steroids are prescribed only after trying other classes of medications. The use of anabolic steroids for a use other than that prescribed to a patient is strictly illegal in the United States.
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