Letter: Drug runners

PETER CORRIGAN implies ('A drug called winning', 3 July) that there has been no scientific attempt to establish if anabolic steroids boost performance. In 1975 the American sports physician Dr A J Ryan reviewed 18 scientific studies and concluded that there was no substantial evidence that anabolic steroids improved performance. Despite this conclusion, well-publicised in the United States, the abuse of steroids in sport there increased.

It is nave to imagine that any study would convince athletes that steroids are not effective. They might conclude that the dose used was too small. Anabolic steroids, when used in large doses, are strongly linked to liver cancer. Very large doses - up to 400mg/day - are used in sport, this is more than 10 times the maximum dose normally used therapeutically. The administration of large doses to healthy subjects for a medical trial would be unethical.

Ray Brooks

Retired Professor of Chemical Endocrinology

London SW12

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