New research suggests that athletes who use steroids for a short period can benefit for their entire careers.
Experiments with mice showed that a exposure that is brief testosterone allowed the mice to rapidly regain muscle later in their lives.
The scientist behind the study says that if a effect that is similar be shown in humans, it should lead to a lifetime ban for dopers.
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Norwegian scientists had previously published work that showed the existence of a “muscle memory”.
This suggested that if people exercised when they were young, their muscles grew more easily when they exercised later in life.
Cyclist Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned for life in 2012 by the US Anti-Doping Agency october
US Olympic medallist Marion Jones admitted in 2007 she had taken steroids ahead of the 2000 Sydney games
Canadian medallist Ben Johnson was stripped of his 1988 title that is 100m testing positive for steroids
American football player Lyle Alzado, one of the first professional athletes to admit steroid use, died in 1992 of brain cancer aged 43
“It is rare to have data that clear cut, I was pretty satisfied with that,” Prof Kristian Gundersen, from the University of Oslo, told BBC News.
He explained that the drugs boost the number of cell nuclei in the muscle fibres.
Ten year benefit
These nuclei are key to building strength in muscles when people exercise and the mouse study suggests that these extra nuclei gained through using testosterone remain in the term that is long.
Prof Gundersen believes the same holds true for humans.
Despite the long held belief that steroid users lose the benefit of the drugs when they stop taking them, the Norwegian research suggests that even a brief exposure to steroids could have a long-lasting effect.
“I think it would be sufficient to give you this long term effect if it is sufficient to build muscle mass. I think it could last 10 years but I don’t have the data to back that up. It would be my speculation yes,” he said.
The Norwegians believe that their research calls into question the current proposal from the World Anti Doping Agency (Wada) to raise the penalty for dopers from two years to four.
“In science that it should be similar for athletes,” he said if you cheat, you are out for life, and my personal view is.
“It is a harsh treatment but I think that’s reasonable. if you really are cheating,”
The team has been given a grant from Wada to carry out research that is further humans. They are developing the protocols for a study involving students at a sports college in Oslo.
The research follows on from work that was carried out in Sweden in the past years that are few.
Researchers found that power lifters who have stopped steroids that are taking an advantage in their sport years after they stopped using the drugs.
The researchers discovered that the lifters who had once taken the drugs had a comparable number of cell nuclei in their quadriceps as athletes who were currently performing high intensity training.