Study shows a third of meds used by bodybuilders are fake

A study in France has revealed that performance and image enhancing drugs (PIEDs) used by bodybuilders have a very high chance of being either counterfeit or substandard.

The study focused on pharmaceuticals and dietary supplements acquired from online, black market sources in France, so a high rate of problem products might be expected. The sample was 110 products seized by enforcement authorities in sports halls around the country.

As it turned out, 32 per cent of 75 pharmaceutical samples tested were counterfeit, and another 33 per cent were substandard – apparently genuine products with levels of active ingredient that didn’t match the original product specifications – and two samples had no actives at all.

The team also looked at 35 dietary supplement samples, and found that while 80 per cent were not original just one was adulterated, with a doping substance called DMBA.

However, the scientists behind the work say that this rate of adulteration is much lower than earlier studies, and while this may reflect an improvement in the quality of supplements being sold, its possible new substances that weren’t looked for in their analysis were present.

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The authors of the study – published in the journal Forensic Science International – say that the low quality of the pharmaceutical products, coupled with the fact that many of them are administered by injection, is a big concern and "exposes users to risks of acute and chronic toxicity."

The pharmaceutical samples included 39 products intended for intramuscular injection, with the remainder oral products including 34 tablets, 13 capsules, 14 powders, four liquids and three lyophilisates.

"This work [shows] that France is not spared by the trafficking of PIED," write the researchers. "The use of counterfeit drugs in [the] mainstream population is an underestimated public health issue."

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