Steroids and infertility
Steroids can have a serious impact on a man’s ability to have a family, according to Dr Susan White, the Chair of the Australian Sports Drug Medical Advisory Committee (ASDMAC).
As a result of taking steroids, the brain, sensing high levels of testosterone, stops producing the hormones that make the body produce both testosterone and sperm - and therefore the man’s fertility decreases, Dr White says.
“If males take steroids they will suppress their own production of testosterone and sperm and there is no guarantee that this can be reversed,” Dr White warns and “many require treatment for infertility if and when they choose to have a family”.
ASDMAC certainly sees this as athletes who have previously used steroids, she says, then require the assistance of fertility drugs in an attempt to restore some sperm production.
“These fertility medications are also prohibited by World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and therefore, if used by an athlete, require a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) to allow them to be taken legitimately whilst competing.”
Dr White says unfortunately for these athletes, the WADA criteria states a TUE cannot be granted if the use of the medication is due to previous use of a prohibited substance. “Therefore any previous steroid users will never get clearance to legitimately take their fertility drugs whilst competing in higher level sport.
“For some steroid users, sperm production never recovers, despite the use of fertility drugs and they will never be able to father their own children.”
The problem is “not necessarily” confined to long-term users, Dr White says, “but the higher the dose and longer used, the more likely there will be sustained or permanent infertility”.
Females taking steroids are not immune, either.
While it’s not exactly the same, Dr White says, “it does suppress the hormones that stimulate ovulation”.
This has been seen in the reports from female athletes from East Germany in the 1970s, many of whom were never able to fall pregnant and those that did had a high rate of fetal abnormalities.
Worried about suspicious behaviour but not sure if you witnessed doping or not? Doping can be reported confidentially via the Raise a concern form on this website, or by calling 13 000 27232.