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Most hormonal agents used for nonmedical purposes in athletes have legitimate medical uses. This review introduces each compound by its pharmacology, clinical pharmacology, and legitimate medical use and reviews information on its abuse. Human growth hormone is presently available in virtually unlimited quantities due to its production by recombinant DNA technology. Its use in athletes is considered for its muscle-building, fat-depleting properties. Erythropoietin is a kidney hormone that increases red cell mass. It is used for renal dialysis patients to avoid blood transfusions. Its use in athletes is to raise red blood cell mass in an attempt to augment maximal oxygen capacity and the ability to do endurance work. Human chorionic gonadotropin has the biological activity of luteinizing hormone to increase testosterone synthesis and to maintain (partially) testicular volume when exogenous androgens are taken. Clenbuterol is a beta2 adrenergic agonist with muscle-building properties that are seemingly specific to striated muscle; clenbuterol may cause reduction in body fat.
Alan D. Rogol is with the University of Virginia Health Sciences Center, MR-4/ Room 3037, Box 3, Charlottesville, VA 22908.