The History of Androstenedione
- Andro was discovered in 1935, but it was not until the 1950s when scientists theorized that the body could convert it to testosterone. For this reason, like the steroid dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), andro is referred to as a prohormone. However, in contrast to DHEA, which needs two chemical steps to become testosterone, andro is only one step away from doing so. Andro is found in plants such as Scotch pine trees, thus making it eligible to be classified as a dietary supplement. German athletes were said to have used it as early as 1980 to improve their Olympic performances, and it became a widely used supplement among bodybuilders.
Introduction to the United States Market
- Organic chemist Patrick Arnold introduced andro in the United States in 1996 as an over-the-counter muscle enhancement product, and it grew in use throughout Major League Baseball (MLB). Perhaps the most well-known andro user is record-breaking slugger Mark McGwire, who admitted to his use of it in 1998. By 2003, andro sales were making a huge profit for Arnold and his company, Proviant Technologies.
The Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2004
- In 2004, federal legislation--called the Anabolic Steroid Control Act--added andro to the list of anabolic steroids and prohormones defined as controlled substances. Thus possession of andro became a federal crime. The ban took effect on Jan. 20, 2005.
- Even before the federal ban, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had banned the sale of Andro in April 2004, citing that it poses significant health risks usually associated with steroids. In 2008, the World Anti-Doping Agency added andro to its list of prohibited drugs, citing that a drug "should be limited to medically justified indications" and should not be intended for the enhancement of sport performance. The list effectively banned the use of andro in the Olympic Games. Today, andro use is prohibited in almost all athletic events.
A Bad Rap
- Although information about side effects and risks of andro use is limited, initial medical research has raised concerns about its safety. Doctors believe that andro users have an increased risk of liver, breast and pancreatic cancer; heart disease; breast development in men; infertility and impotence; aggressive behavior and skin acne; premature baldness; and kidney damage. Some doctors even question the allegation that andro increases testosterone levels.