Performance enhancing drugs

Over the last 10 years, the firm has seen an increasing number of cases involving performance-enhancing drugs, steroids, and banned pro-hormones. The Department of Defense recently adopted the World Anti-Doping list of banned drugs. This has opened up a whole new class of offenses that military members are facing. More often than not, service members are completely surprised when they test positive for banned substances.

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The recent trend involves the use of banned pro-hormones. There are a number of products on the open market - readily available on the internet - that contain substances that were recently banned by the Department of Defense. The products are often consumed by service members who are completely unaware that they are using banned substances.

The cases are further complicated because the drug lab report may generically use the term steroids. Or, more commonly, the commander may have never heard of substances such as epitrenbolone or boldenone - or other prohormones that produce positive test results.

Some of these over-the-counter products have warning labels cautioning athletes subject to testing not to use the products. Other products do not have warning labels.

These cases are still fairly new to the military criminal justice system. In that regard, not many active duty lawyers may have experience in steroid or pro-hormone cases. A defense toxicologist is usually required to help understand how the pro-hormone metabolizes in the body to produce a positive test result. Likewise, not all counsel are going to understand T/E (testosterone to epitestosterone ratios).

The most common performance-enhancing drug/steroid in the military is nandrolone.


Nandrolone is detected based on its metabolites, specifically 19-norandrosterone. According to an article from the British Journal of Sports Medicine:

"Parenteral administration of the long‐chain esters of 19‐nortestosterone may be detected for months, with anecdotal evidence pointing to more than 18 months past the last injection. Metabolites formed after oral administration of norsteroids remain detectable for only a few days. Since strong interindividual variability exists in the excretion of metabolites linked to different rates of absorption and rapid elimination of metabolites following oral ingestion, it seems almost impossible to determine from the results of a single test what exact preparation was used, let alone the time, dosage, or mode of administration."

World Anti-Doping Agencies has set urinary limits:

2 ng/ml – Nandrolone

Elimination Half-Life

Single IM injection of 50 mg nandrolone decanoate or phenylpropionate

Nandrolone decanoate

8 days

Nandrolone phenylpropionate

21 days

Belkien et al, 1985

Repeated Intramuscular administration of 100 mg of nandrolone phenylpropionate ester (100 mg per week for 3 weeks, 200 mg per week for 10 weeks.

Elimination Half-Life

Nandrolone phenylpropionate

38 days

Belkien et al, 1985

Detection Times:


Single Gluteal IM injection of 100 mg nadrolone decanoate or phenylpropionate

Plasma Nandrolone concentrations remained above 1.4 mcg/L

Nandrolone decanoate

9.4 days

Nandrolone phenylpropionate

5.1 days

Minto et al., 1997


Single injection of 150 mg of nandrolone decanoate

Urine nandrolone concentrations higher than the threshold value of 2 ng/ml are detectable for 6 months

Thus metabolites can be traced for extended periods of time

Nandrolone Phenylpropionate:

11-12 months

Nandrolone Deconate:

12 – 18 months

Oral intake

2 – 6 days

Other References:

According to the World Anti-doping Agency’s website regarding:

"The presence in a urine sample of 19- norandrosterone glucuronide, the main urinary metabolite of nandrolone, is indicative of the use of this prohibited drug. Under certain circumstances, 19-NA may be present at low concentrations in samples of human urine for reasons unconnected with doping. To confirm Adverse Analytical Findings (AAFs) for samples containing 19-NA at concentrations between 2 ng/mL and 10 ng/mL, WADA Technical document TD2010NA requires that carbon isotope ratio analysis be performed to demonstrate that the metabolite has not been produced naturally in the urine."

The WADA Technical Document – TD2014NA:

If you have tested positive for a banned substance and want to discuss the case with experienced counsel, feel free to contact us.
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