Glucocorticoid administration in athletes: Performance, metabolism and detection


Short-term (ST) systemic glucocorticoid (GC) intake improves endurance performance.

Possible causal effects on performance are difficult to distinguish at this time.

Return to basal hormone values after ST oral GC administration needs 2-3 days.

Repercussions are more prolonged with intra- and periarticular GC administration.

GC direct detection remains complicated with interaction of environmental factors.


It is generally acknowledged in the sporting world that glucocorticoid (GC) use enhances physical performance. This pharmacological class is therefore banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in in-competition samples after systemic but not local (defined as any route other than oral, intravenous, intramuscular or rectal) administration, which thus allows athletes to use GCs for therapeutic purposes. According to the 2016 WADA list, the urine reporting level for all GCs is set at 30 ng/ml to distinguish between the authorized and banned routes of administration. The actual data on the ergogenic effects of GC intake are nevertheless fairly recent, with the first study showing improved physical performance with systemic GC administration dating back only to 2007. Moreover, the studies over the last decade coupling ergogenic and metabolic investigations in humans during and after GC intake have shown discrepant results. Similarly, urine discrimination between banned and authorized GC use remains complex, but it seems likely to be improved thanks to new analytical studies and the inclusion of the authorized GC uses (local routes of administration and out-of-competition samples) in the WADA monitoring program. In this review, we first summarize the current knowledge on the ergogenic and metabolic GC effects in humans during various types of exercise. We then present the antidoping legislation and methods of analysis currently used to detect GC abuse and conclude with some practical considerations and perspectives.


  • corticosteroid;
  • physical exercise;
  • ergogenic effects;
  • hormones;
  • antidoping analysis
Corresponding author. CIAMS, Université Orléans, Allée du Château, 45067 Orléans

Note to users:
Accepted manuscripts are Articles in Press that have been peer reviewed and accepted for publication by the Editorial Board of this publication. They have not yet been copy edited and/or formatted in the publication house style, and may not yet have the full ScienceDirect functionality, e.g., supplementary files may still need to be added, links to references may not resolve yet etc. The text could still change before final publication.

Although accepted manuscripts do not have all bibliographic details available yet, they can already be cited using the year of online publication and the DOI, as follows: author(s), article title, Publication (year), DOI. Please consult the journal's reference style for the exact appearance of these elements, abbreviation of journal names and use of punctuation.

When the final article is assigned to volumes/issues of the Publication, the Article in Press version will be removed and the final version will appear in the associated published volumes/issues of the Publication. The date the article was first made available online will be carried over.

Autor / Fonte:Katia Collomp, Alexandre Arlettaz, Corinne Buisson, Anne-Marie Lecoq, Cynthia Mongongu Steroids 2016 September 16