Mrinal Shah, New York asked:
I wanted to know if there are any naturally derived (or if there are only synthetic) steroids. Also, if there are any natural steroids would it be possible for an athlete to get them in his daily diet? Would that disqualify him from any sporting events?
We put this question to Professor Chris Cooper:
Thatís a really interesting question. There are natural steroids. Testosterone is a natural steroid and obviously men have more of that than women do. Itís illegal to take testosterone because itís not part of your normal diet. You canít get a diet equivalent to fail a drugs test. Itís difficult to take a steroid in any normal diet to have an effect because they donít work orally. You have to inject them, then itís obvious youíre doing the cheating.
Where itís a more grey area is in some of the metabolites the body makes from these artificial compounds which are also illegal because the agencies say that means youíve taken the metabolites. Thereís a concern that if you exercise very hard on certain diets you might make small amounts of these metabolites naturally. Then itís a question of what level the drug company sets those out. Itís difficult to take the natural compound to fail a drugs test. The bodies make it that way. They donít want to fail people for that.