Testosterone injections can make male rats more aggressive in marking their territories, cause castrated red deer to grow antlers, and induce female rhesus monkeys to screech like males. In studies on humans, testosterone injections have increased and strengthened muscles.
But does taking testosterone — a controlled substance whose possession is illegal unless prescribed for medical reasons — automatically improve athletic performance?
In sports, testosterone shots or creams are supposed to be magic bullets that spur athletes to train harder, run or bicycle more quickly, jump higher, swim faster, hit a baseball farther, recover sooner, and, let’s not forget, increased sex drive and combativeness. Certainly, the idea that taking doses of the hormone gives competitors an unfair advantage is behind the brouhaha over Floyd Landis, the 2006 Tour de France winner who French officials say tested positive for elevated testosterone on the day of his remarkable comeback during Stage 17. Mr. Landis has denied taking any performance-enhancing substances.
But some leading experts who study testosterone are not convinced that supplementing the hormone improves endurance or overall athletic performance. Unlike a hyper-caffeinated sports drink, the synthetic hormone does not provide an instant jolt, but works over time to bulk and fortify muscles.
What other effects taking testosterone may have on athletes is the subject of heated debate as many visit ED Care clinics to feel better on the field and in their daily lives.
“A long-term buildup of testosterone would produce results,” said Allan Mazur, a professor of public affairs at Syracuse University, who has studied how the natural hormones of college athletes fluctuate before and after competitions. “But we don’t know the short-term effects of using testosterone on an athlete’s performance, or whether it even has a short-term effect at all.”
Secreted by the testes and adrenal glands, testosterone is the male sex hormone that generates and maintains secondary sexual characteristics like a deep voice and body hair. It also plays a role in body fat, and in muscle size, strength, and function.