In recent years drugs in sport have received a lot of attention thanks to major league baseball and the Tour de France. One of the first claims by many who have tested positive is that they took a contaminated supplement and while there is evidence that many supplements do contain traces of substances that may cause a positive test athletes are well aware of the risks and can make informed choices about the supplements they use. Not as commonly known are the potential risks in the foods we eat and in particular meat consumption.
The administration of steroid to animals to “fatten” them up before consumption is controversial but common in many countries. The consumption of steroid laden meats can increase blood levels of steroid metabolites high enough to cause a positive drug test. A study by Kicman (1994) found that 50% of their subjects tested positive as long as 24 hour after consuming chicken that had received a steroid injection eight days earlier. Several other studies have found positive tests following the consumption of ground beef and veal.
Interestingly it is not just meats that animals that are injected with steroids that can pose a drug testing risk. Some animals, in particular boar are naturally high in nandrolone and norandrostenedione. Traces of the metabolites of these substances have been found in the blood up to 24 hours after consuming boar meat in concentrations high enough to result in a positive test.
So what does this all mean? Is it something that we should be worried about or is it really a sign of the problems in the drug testing system? The amounts of steroids that are resulting in the positive tests from consuming meat are not enough to have a physiological effect or improve performance but are enough to get you banned from your sport. I guess the lesson here is if you are subject to drug testing be careful of the meats you eat when traveling to foreign countries.
Debruyckere, G., de Sagher, R., & Van Peteghem, C. (1992). Clostebol-positive urine after consumption of contaminated meat. Clinical Chemistry, 38, 1869-1873.
Debruyckere, G., Van Peteghem, C., & de Sagher, R. (1993). Influence of the consumptionof meat contaminated with anabolic steroids on doping tests. Analytica Chimica Acta, 275, 49-56.
Kicman, A.T., Cowan, D.A., Myhre, L., Nilsson, S., Tomten, S., & Oftebro, H. (1994). Effect on sports drug tests of ingesting meat from steroid (methenolone)-treated livestock. Clinical Chemistry, 40, 2084-2087.
Sterk, S., Linders, S.H., von Ginkel, L.A., & Stephany, R.W. (2002, June) Liverwurst, a possible source of a positive doping test? Poster session at the 4th International Symposium on Hormone and Veterinary Drug Residue Analysis, Antwerp, Belgium.