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For many years, AAS have been by far the most detected doping substances in IOC-accredited laboratories.
Studies in the United States have shown that AAS users tend to be mostly middle-class heterosexual men with a median age of about 25 who are noncompetitive bodybuilders and non-athletes and use the drugs for cosmetic purposes.
Individuals who are especially physically active and/or bathe often may not be good candidates, since the medication can be washed off and may take up to six hours to be fully absorbed.
There is also the risk that an intimate partner or child may come in contact with the application site and inadvertently dose himself or herself; children and women are highly sensitive to testosterone and can suffer unintended masculinization and health effects, even from small doses.
Studies indicate that the anabolic properties of AAS are relatively similar despite the differences in pharmacokinetic principles such as first-pass metabolism.
However, the orally available forms of AAS may cause liver damage in high doses.
The most commonly used AAS in medicine are testosterone and its various esters (but most commonly testosterone undecanoate, testosterone enanthate, testosterone cypionate, and testosterone propionate), Others also available and used commonly but to a lesser extent include methyltestosterone, oxandrolone, mesterolone, and oxymetholone, as well as drostanolone propionate, metenolone (methylandrostenolone) esters, and fluoxymesterone.
Another male-specific side-effect that can occur is testicular atrophy, caused by the suppression of natural testosterone levels, which inhibits production of sperm (most of the mass of the testes is developing sperm).
The word anabolic, referring to anabolism, comes from the Greek ἀναβολή anabole, "that which is thrown up, mound." Androgens or AAS are one of three types of sex hormone agonists, the others being estrogens like estradiol and progestogens like progesterone.
AAS were synthesized in the 1930s, and are now used therapeutically in medicine to stimulate muscle growth and appetite, induce male puberty and treat chronic wasting conditions, such as cancer and .
The American College of Sports Medicine acknowledges that AAS, in the presence of adequate diet, can contribute to increases in body weight, often as lean mass increases and that the gains in muscular strength achieved through high-intensity exercise and proper diet can be additionally increased by the use of AAS in some individuals.
These effects include harmful changes in cholesterol levels (increased low-density lipoprotein and decreased high-density lipoprotein), acne, high blood pressure, liver damage (mainly with most oral AAS), and dangerous changes in the structure of the left ventricle of the heart.