Skip to main content

A league of their own, too: motivational and age of onset comparisons between American male and female AAS users


Non-medical anabolic-androgenic steroid (NMAAS) use among athletes and risk-taking adolescents has monopolized media attention in recent years. Conversely, our large-scale study of almost 2000 American male NMAAS users revealed that the majority of adult were non-athletes who initiated use as adults and were not motivated by athletics. Notably, a small proportion of the sample that completed our Internet-based survey was females and it would be informative to describe differences in age of onset and motivations between male and female users.


U.S.-based NMAAS users (n = 1955 male & n = 37 female; about 1.85%) were recruited from various Internet websites dedicated to resistance training activities and use of ergogenic substances, mass emails, and print media to participate in a 291-item web-based survey. For this presentation, items assessing age of onset of NMAAS use and motivation for use are explored.


Most NMAAS users did not initiate use during adolescence nor was their use motivated by athletics. The typical male and female user were Caucasian, highly-educated (female users evidenced a slightly higher prevalence of advanced degrees), gainfully employed professionals approximately 30 years of age, who were earning an above-average income, were not active in organized sports, and whose use was motivated by increases in skeletal muscle mass, strength, and physical attractiveness. In addition, female use was motivated by a desire to reduce body fat and amateur bodybuilding endeavors and a greater percentage of female users reported involvement in competitive bodybuilding. The average female began using AAS at age 29, 4–5 years after beginning weight training, and had used for a total of 5.1 years, while the average male initiated use at age 26, 5–6 years after they began weight training, and had been using for a total of 5.6 years.


Few notable gender differences emerged for age of initiation or motivations for NMAAS use. The typical female adult NMAAS user initiated use in her late 20s, slightly later than her typical male counterpart, after a similar number of years training. Although females shared most motivations with male users, they were also motivated by a desire to decrease body fat and competitive bodybuilding. Adult NMAAS users appeared to be a relatively homogeneous and high-functioning group. Hence, the focus on "cheating" athletes and at-risk youth may lead to ineffective policy as it relates to the predominant group of NMAAS users. The larger population of NMAAS users is likely to dismiss such concerns as irrelevant to their own use. Effective policy, prevention or intervention should address the target population(s) and their reasons for use while utilizing their desire for responsible use and education.


The authors have no conflicts of interest in relation to this presentation.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Rick Collins.

Rights and permissions

Open Access This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( ), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Cohen, J., Collins, R., Darkes, J. et al. A league of their own, too: motivational and age of onset comparisons between American male and female AAS users. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 5 (Suppl 1), P26 (2008).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • DOI: