Steroid Detection Times


Introduction – How Steroid Drug Testing Works

The key to understanding anabolic steroid detection times lies in the ability to learn about and understand how drug testing for anabolic steroids and performance enhancing drugs works, and what exactly are the factors involved in affecting anabolic steroid detection times. Drug testing for anabolic steroids and related performance enhancing drugs is one of the most misunderstood topics and concepts by both the average individual as well as those athletes, bodybuilders, and individuals who actually use anabolic steroids. There are in fact a few popular misconceptions in regards to anabolic steroid testing.

The first misconception is that general drug testing holds the capability to test for anabolic steroids. This is wrong. Testing for anabolic steroids requires a very specific test, requiring the use of very sophisticated, very expensive, and advanced equipment. Being that anabolic steroids are hormones that are native to the human body as well as synthetic analogues of these same hormones, the methodology and pathways to detecting anabolic steroids and the individual steroid detection times are all very different from the methodology used to detect commonly used recreational drugs such as cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, etc. These recreational drugs are, for all intents and purposes, compounds that are foreign to the body and operate through very different mechanisms and pathways than hormones and anabolic steroids do. In addition to this, the equipment and procedures required for the detection of common recreational drugs are very cheap and cost effective in comparison to anabolic steroid testing, which is why they can be employed far more frequently and on a much wider scale.

The second misconception, which is almost as common as the first mentioned misconception, is that the general testing procedure involves urinating in a cup (or having blood drawn) and having that sample inserted into some monolithic machine that will ubiquitously ‘detect’ and ‘know’ every single substance and anabolic steroid in that sample. This is very wrong. Almost the whole process of steroid detection requires human interaction at every level, and the investigation into steroid detection involves some sort of person at every minute of the testing procedure. Advanced machinery and equipment is used, but humans must do the investigatory methods and operate the machines at every step of the procedure and it must be conducted meticulously, which is why the whole process is very prone to error – human error. The testing procedure for anabolic steroids and other performance enhancing drugs is so complex and expensive that there are in fact only a handful of laboratories in the world that can conduct this testing.


Furthermore (and perhaps the most important message to take home in this article), anabolic steroid testing involves the testing for all known anabolic steroids and their analogues. This must be repeated again as it is very crucial for the reader to understand: anabolic steroid testing involves the testing for all known anabolic steroids and their analogues. This means that in order to catch an athlete or individual using anabolic steroids, his or her urine or blood sample must be sampled and assayed for every single anabolic steroid in existence that is known until it is narrowed down to whatever the person being tested for is using (or has recently used). This is where steroid detection times also play a large role, which will be expanded upon much further very shortly. Most anabolic steroid testing occurs via urinalysis (analysis of the individual’s urine). The second most popular or frequent method of testing is via a blood analysis. A third testing method involves the testing of hair samples, but this is not normally reliable for anabolic steroids and is usually done for the testing of recreational drugs.

The very expensive procedures (and equipment) for the purpose of anabolic steroid detection involves the use of gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, and even liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry[1] [2] [3] [4]. These are all extremely expensive procedures and pieces of equipment, costing millions of dollars in order to test perhaps only a handful of individuals.

Anabolic Steroid Metabolites

Urinalysis is by far the most reliable testing method, as the amount of time an anabolic steroid or drug remains detectable in one’s system is the longest in an individual’s urine, especially in the case of the metabolites of that compound. While blood testing is also quite reliable, it falls short of urinalysis due to the fact that anabolic steroids undergo extensive biotransformation through the liver (hepatic biotransformation) as well as through the kidneys (renal). Metabolites are the products of the body’s metabolism of various substances and compounds (in this case, anabolic steroids). The metabolism of compounds in the body, such as anabolic steroids, results in changes to the original chemical structure (or it can also result in byproducts). These changed molecules are eventually excreted from the body in urine (and a much smaller percentage in feces), which is where they can be identified and detected. If a metabolite of a known substance is detected in an individual’s urine, there is a very good chance that that individual was indeed utilizing that known substance of which the metabolite formulated from. Almost all anabolic steroids, chemicals, drugs, and even components of food are metabolized into different compounds than their original form that they were ingested or administered in. However, a small percentage of some compounds might be excreted from the body in its original form, un-metabolized, and a small percentage overall of all ingested or injected compounds will be excreted in its original form. This is where steroid detection times play a very large role.

Because the detection of anabolic steroids in testing procedures plays such a central and pivotal role, the shortcomings of blood testing lies in the fact that because anabolic steroids are primarily metabolized through the hepatic and renal (liver and kidney) pathways, metabolites rarely linger around in blood plasma for very long, if at all. Often times, they cannot be detected in blood and can clear the bloodstream far too quickly and far too easily. This is where the advantage lies in urinalysis. The formation of metabolites in the body is merely a part of the natural biochemical processes of the body using, changing, degrading, and eliminating compounds in the body through their life cycles. An example of some metabolites of Testosterone include: Epitestosterone (an inactive epimer of Testosterone that is analyzed in urine to detect the use of supraphysiological levels of Testosterone by an athlete), Dihydrotestosterone (a metabolite of Testosterone that serves a slightly different purpose in various tissues), and even Estrogen can be considered a metabolite of Testosterone. Both Dihydrotestosterone and Estrogen are metabolized from Testosterone via enzymes that are responsible for their conversions from Testosterone.

Anabolic steroid detection times are more closely related to the metabolites of the anabolic steroids rather than the anabolic steroids themselves, as these metabolites are what linger around in the body and in the urine for longer periods of time than the original anabolic steroid that was used. For example, while an athlete that uses bodybuilding dosages of Testosterone might test positive for Testosterone through a blood or urine test merely by way of the fact that very high Testosterone levels would be seen in his blood or urine, the question remains as to how this athlete would test positive for Testosterone use after he has stopped using it? The answer to this is key to understanding steroid detection times, and while this hypothetical user of Testosterone might have stopped use long before a urine test so that high Testosterone levels might not be found, Epitestosterone levels are a telltale sign, as an obscenely and abnormally high Testosterone:Epitestosterone ratio would be seen in this individual’s urine. A normal individual typically has a ratio of 1:1, while some Testosterone using athletes have been found to have a 1.15:1 or even a 3.71:1 ratio. This is what would give away the fact that bodybuilding doses of Testosterone were used, as very high levels of the metabolite Epitestosterone would linger in the individual’s urine sample. This analysis of Testosterone:Epitestosterone is the primary method by which athletes are tested positive for doping with Testosterone[5].

For other anabolic steroids, the detection is even easier, as metabolites of different unique analogues and derivatives are very easy to identify once known. For example Deca-Durabolin (Nandrolone Decanoate) is easily detectible via the detection of its metabolite 19-norandrosterone in the urine. If the amount of 19-norandrosterone in the urine is found to be much higher than a particular amount deemed as a normal physiological level, it can be presumed that the athlete or individual had been using Nandrolone. Another example, Winstrol (Stanozolol) can be detected via the presence of 3’hydroxystanozolol in the urine, which is a metabolite of Winstrol that lingers in the user’s urine for up to 10 days following use[6]. The use of mass spectrometer can even detect non-metabolized Nandrolone molecules in urine due to its unique properties. It is through the detection of the metabolites of the different anabolic steroid that essentially determines the steroid detection times that have been more or less established.

You Need to Know What You Are Looking For!

In general, it should be understood that in order for an anabolic steroid to be detected in a test, the specific anabolic steroid, and more specifically its metabolites, must be known prior to the testing procedure. This is why it has been mentioned earlier in this article that anabolic steroid testing involves the testing for all known anabolic steroids and their analogues. An anabolic steroid that is not known cannot be found. In order to find something, you need to know what you are looking for first before any investigation begins. This is the reason as to why many athletes have circumvented testing procedures and have successfully doped without being caught (or have gone a very long time doping before being caught). These athletes merely utilized designer steroids that were unknown at the time, or through the use of a newly designed or created compound. If the athlete utilizes an anabolic steroid that is not yet known or is yet to be discovered and it is kept a closely guarded secret, that athlete will get away with it no matter how much he is tested.

This is evidenced in history during the Olympics, where East Germany ran a state-sponsored program known as State Plan Research Theme 14.25, which as a program designed to circumvent the IOC testing procedures and have all of their Olympic athletes (both knowingly and unknowingly) utilizing anabolic steroids in an effort to undetectably gain an advantage over other competitors[7]. The East German government implemented this program and ran it for over 20 years, and involved the use of undetectable (at the time) anabolic steroids, due to their relatively new development and unknown status.

Steroid detection times can be influenced by many different factors, mostly involving the different metabolic pathways and excretion methods. Anabolic steroid detection times can be influenced by the type of anabolic steroid used, the specific properties of that anabolic steroid, the dose, the duration of use, and route of administration (oral or injectable).

Influences and Factors on Steroid Detection Times

Every anabolic steroid exhibits a different characteristic or property, and some can be quite different from others, while some are very similar to others. Some previous factors mentioned included: the type of anabolic steroid used, the specific properties of that anabolic steroid, the dose, the duration of use, and route of administration (oral or injectable). Other further factors include: fat solubility, and resistance to metabolism. Some anabolic steroid detection times, as a result of these factors, are extremely long while others are very short. Steroid detection times can vary quite greatly as a result and those individuals and/or athletes who are subject to anabolic steroid testing should always be fully aware of the different anabolic steroid detection times of the different compounds. Some anabolic steroids might be more suitable than others for the purpose of the avoidance of a positive test result, and others are much less suitable and should be avoided at all costs. A full list of the different and most common anabolic steroids and the individual steroid detection times will be presented at the end of this article.

Type of anabolic steroid used: The type of anabolic steroid used can have a very influential factor on their individual steroid detection times. As mentioned previously in this article, it is perhaps much easier to ‘get away with’ the use of Testosterone at supraphysiological (bodybuilding) doses rather than the use of certain other compounds, merely due to the fact that the metabolites are very similar to those secreted by the body endogenously. There might also be a greater leeway for acceptable levels of metabolites in this case, as well as the faster clearance of them. For example, Testosterone suspension is an un-esterified variant of Testosterone that can completely clear the body within 12 – 24 hours, and this can also mean that the Testosterone:Epitestosterone ratios in the user’s urine can and will return to normal ranges even faster than the use of a longer-acting variant of Testosterone, such as Testosterone Enanthate.

Properties unique to an anabolic steroid: Some anabolic steroids, such as Nandrolone (Deca-Durabolin) or Winstrol (Stanozolol), as mentioned previously can metabolize into very unique and highly identifiable metabolites in the user’s urine. Deca (Nandrolone) in particular is a very notorious anabolic steroid for a high rate and chance of detection, as one of the reasons is due to the fact that Nandrolone’s metabolites in urine tend to remain for an excessively long period of time in the body in comparison to many other anabolic steroids. Deca is perhaps regarded as the worst offender when it comes to steroid detection times, and is an anabolic steroid that is recommended for tested athletes to avoid at all costs as a result.

Dose and duration of use: Generally self-explanatory, the dose and duration of use make a very large impact on anabolic steroid detection times. Obviously, the higher the dose and/or the longer the duration of use of any anabolic steroid, the longer the detection time will be and the easier it will be to detect the anabolic steroid in bioassays. Higher dosage of an anabolic steroid means that the human body must process more of the hormone in and out of the body, and metabolize much more of it. There is always a limit as to how fast the body can metabolize hormones (or anything else), leaving the body to be able to metabolize compounds only so fast. The body has only limited  amounts of enzymes and catalysts to process and metabolize drugs, chemicals, hormones, and food, and the higher the dosage, the greater the demands placed upon these biochemical resources and enzymes to perform metabolism. The result can be a slower metabolism of the anabolic steroids in and out of the body, resulting in altered longer steroid detection times than the hormone would otherwise exhibit. The same goes for duration of use – longer cycles mean longer steroid detection times.

Route of administration: Oral anabolic steroids are known as being very fast to reach peak blood plasma levels in the body, and equally very fast to clear. This is because the route of administration involves oral ingestion, which exposes the active hormone immediately to the liver and the bloodstream, resulting in fast metabolism (especially considering the liver is essentially where the body’s center of metabolic processes occurs). On the other hand, injectable anabolic steroids exhibit a slower release and slower metabolism in the body (for the most part). While oral anabolic steroids all exhibit half-lives of 4 – 24 hours (depending on the compound used), injectable anabolic steroids (especially esterified ones) exhibit half-lives of 24 hours to 15 days or more, depending on the compound used. Some injectable anabolic steroids, such as Testosterone Suspension, exhibit a very short half-life of approximately 4 – 24 hours. It stands to reason that most of the time, the shorter the half-life of an anabolic steroid, the shorter the duration its metabolites remain in the body.


Fat solubility: Anabolic steroids by nature are lipids (fats), though they are not the traditional chemical characteristic of a hydrocarbon chain. They are nevertheless very fat soluble, and blend well with fats (hence why they are able to seamlessly pass through the lipid bilayer of cells in order to exert their activity). Because of the fat solubility, anabolic steroids and their metabolites can linger in fat tissue for very long periods of time, and some are very notorious for this, such as Deca (Nandrolone). Nandrolone is known as being a very fat soluble hormone that can linger in fat tissue (as well as its metabolites) for over a year after use. Furthermore, the esterification that is commonly done to injectable anabolic steroids even further increases their solubility in fats, which causes their individual steroid detection times to increase even further. For example, the detection time of Testosterone Propionate is not as long as Testosterone Enanthate or Testosterone Cypionate. The reason for this difference is because of the esters attached to the Testosterone molecules that alter their rates of release, and therefore their metabolism, and ultimately their steroid detection times.

Resistance to metabolism: The more resistant an anabolic steroid (or any hormone, drug, and even food) is to metabolism in the body, the longer it (and its metabolites) will remain in the body. One such compound that is a perfect example of this is Trenbolone, which is highly resistant to metabolism in the body and is also excreted in urine un-metabolized in a very high percentage. Although Trenbolone’s detection time is not as long as something like Nandrolone, it is still fairly long (approximately 4 – 5 months).

List of Steroid Detection Times

The following is a list of anabolic steroid detection times (in alphabetical order):

Anadrol (Oxymetholone): 2 months
Anavar (Oxandrolone): 3 weeks
Deca-Durabolin (Nandrolone Decanoate): 17 – 18 months
Dianabol (Methandrostenolone): 5 – 6 weeks
Equipoise (Boldenone Undecylenate): 4 – 5 months
Halotestin (Fluoxymesterone): 2 months
Masteron (Drostanolone Propionate): 2 weeks
Nandrolone Phenylpropionate: 11 – 12 months
Omnadren: 3 months
Parabolan (Trenbolone Hexahydrobenzylcarbonate): 4 – 5 months
Primobolan (oral): 4 – 5 weeks
Sustanon 250: 3 months
Testosterone Cypionate: 3 months
Testosterone Enanthate: 3 months
Testosterone Propionate: 2 weeks
Testosterone Suspension: 1- 3 days
Trenbolone Acetate: 4 – 5 months
Turinabol (4-chlorodehydromethyltestosterone): 11 – 12 months
Winstrol (Stanozolol): 2 months


Medical References:

[1] Factors influencing the steroid profile in doping control analysis. Mareck U, Geyer H, Opfermann G, Thevis M, Schänzer WJ. Mass Spectrom. 43: 877–891, 2008.

[2] Schemes of metabolic patterns of anabolic androgenic steroids for the estimation of metabolites of designer steroids in human urine. Fragkaki AG, Angelis YS, Tsantili-Kakoulidou A, Koupparis M, Georgakopoulos C. J. Steroid Biochem. Mol. Biol. 115: 44–61, 2009.

[3] Bad science: the instrumental data in the Floyd Landis case. Blackledge RD. Clin Chim. Acta. 406: 8–13, 2009.

[4] R. Baselt, Disposition of Toxic Drugs and Chemicals in Man, 8th edition, Biomedical Publications, Foster City, CA, 2008, pp. 95, 393, 403, 649, 695, 952, 962, 1078, 1156, 1170, 1442, 1501, 1581.

[5] Detection of epitestosterone doping by isotope ratio mass spectrometry. Aguilera R, Hatton CK, Catlin DH (2002). Clin. Chem. 48 (4): 629–36. PMID 11901061.

[6] Use of ion trap gas chromatography-multiple mass spectrometry for the detection and confirmation of 3’hydroxystanozolol at trace levels in urine for doping control. Mateus-Avois L, Mangin P, Saugy M. J Chromatogr B Analyt Technol Biomed Life Sci. 2005 Feb 25;816(1-2):193-201.

[7] “Hormonal Doping and Androgenization of Athletes: ” Franke et. al