Androstenedione Is a Banned Steroid

Male athlete

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Androstenedione (Andro) is the muscle-building supplement that baseball home run champion Mark McGwire made famous. But since that episode, it has been classified as an anabolic steroid and as such, it is illegal to use without a legitimate medical reason.

Also Called: 4-androstenedione or 4-androstene-3, 17-dione

What Does Androstenedione Do?

Androstenedione is made from a naturally occurring steroid hormone. In your body, androstenedione is a prohormone produced by the adrenal glands, testes, and ovaries. The body metabolizes androstenedione into testosterone, the chief male hormone, as well as into the estrogens estrone and estradiol. When using andro as a supplement was legal, it was used in hopes of boosting testosterone levels in the body. In addition to giving both men and women male characteristics, testosterone has an anabolic effect, increasing muscle size and strength.

Therapeutic androstenedione may be used to increase plasma testosterone levels. Studies often didn't find androstenedione supplements to be effective in boosting testosterone levels. Some studies showed that the net result was to boost the estrogen level instead, and had no anabolic effect on muscles in young men. Used as a supplement, it as also seen to have bad effects in lowering HDL cholesterol, which would raise coronary heart disease risks in men.

Androstenedione Use in Sports 

For years Major League Baseball did not ban andro despite evidence that its use could be hazardous to those taking it without a legitimate medical reason. It had been previously been banned by the Anti-Doping Agency, International Olympic Committee, the NCAA, the NFL and the men's and women's tennis tours.

In January of 2005, the Anabolic Steroid Control Act was amended with the Controlled Substance Act that added anabolic steroids and prohormones to the list of controlled substances. This makes possession of the substances a federal crime. In 2004, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the sale of Andro, because of evidence to support increased health risk when using this substance.

FDA Import Alert 54-11, dated 9/15/2015, gives guidance to districts is that any dietary supplements listing androstenedione, 4-androstenedione or 4-androstene-3, 17-dione may be detained without physical examination. Simply listing it is cause to prevent its import into the United States.

Side Effects 

The research was somewhat mixed as to whether andro supplements worked at all to raise testosterone levels, but it was shown to have negative side effects and increase health risks.

It can interact with blood thinners such as Coumadin and salicylates. It can also interact with diabetes drugs such as sulfonylurea and insulin, decrease blood glucose concentration. It may lead to severe acne or edema if taken with corticosteroids.

The US FDA cited the ill effects they feared would happen to children and adolescents who took andro long term. This included feminization of boys and virilization in girls. Premature puberty could lead to shorter stature.

Some studies show that increased testosterone in older men may cause an increased risk of prostate cancer growth, however, more research is needed.

8 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Library of Medicine. Compound Summary: Androstenedione.

  2. Rasmussen BB, Volpi E, Gore DC, Wolfe RR. Androstenedione Does Not Stimulate Muscle Protein Anabolism in Young Healthy Men. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2000;85(1):55-59. doi:10.1210/jcem.85.1.6322

  3. U.S. Department of Justice. Drug Enforcement Administration. Rules 2005. 21 CFR Parts 1300 and 1308. Implementation of the anabolic steroid control act. of 2004.

  4. Collins RD, Feldstein AH. "Adulterated" Androstenedione: What FDA's Action Against Andro Means for IndustryJ Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2004;1(1):52-60. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-1-1-52

  5. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Import Alert 54-11.

  6. Almaiman AA. Effect of testosterone boosters on body functions: Case reportInt J Health Sci (Qassim). 2018;12(2):86-90.

  7. ScienceDaily. FDA Warns Manufacturers to Stop Distributing Products Containing 'Andro'.

  8. Michaud JE, Billups KL, Partin AW. Testosterone and prostate cancer: an evidence-based review of pathogenesis and oncologic riskTher Adv Urol. 2015;7(6):378-387. doi:10.1177/1756287215597633

By Elizabeth Quinn, MS
Elizabeth Quinn is an exercise physiologist, sports medicine writer, and fitness consultant for corporate wellness and rehabilitation clinics.