Commenting on designer steroids in a Dutch journal, a chemist noted that, "These substances have never been tested, not on humans, not on animals. Ultimately the athlete who takes these products is a guinea pig, or if he's unlucky a dupe." The term "designer steroids" refers to types of anabolic steroids that were never produced for commercial use by any legitimate drug company. They are a kind of Frankenstein form of anabolic steroid drugs in that they are based on existing anabolic steroids. But they are not the same as typical anabolic steroids. In some cases, designer steroids were developed as potential anabolic steroids for use in medicine, but that idea was abandoned when initial research involving animals showed them to be highly toxic, especially in regard to liver function. But in other cases, designer steroids are original compounds that have never been tested in any way. This explains the above remarks by a chemist, in that when you ingest designer steroids, you are in completely unknown territory in relation to possible health effects. However, that changed after the introduction to the commercial market of several types of designer steroids. It then became apparent that the drugs were both potent and toxic.
Designer steroids were not widely known until the BALCO athletic scandal became public. "BALCO" stood for Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative and was operated by a former musician named Victor Conte. Although Conte had no formal training in any type of science, he nonetheless fancied himself a self-styled expert on the use of various types of performance-enhancing drugs and nutrients. He even developed a supplement that was popular with bodybuilders and athletes called ZMA. ZMA consisted of the minerals zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B6. The supplement was touted as a "natural anabolic" and one study showed that it raised levels of the anabolic hormone, insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1). However, later independent studies found that ZMA was not anabolic and didn't affect any anabolic hormones in the body. But it could be useful in those who were deficient in the nutrients contained in ZMA, namely zinc and magnesium. BALCO was founded in 1984 by Conte and his wife in the San Francisco Bay area of California and started out as a health food store. Conte then converted the health food store into BALCO, with the initial work involving the testing of mineral balance in athletes. He did urine and blood testing on athletes to monitor mineral shortages in athletes and claimed that providing the missing minerals to deficient athletes dramatically improved their health and performance. That is true. If you provide any nutrient that is missing from the diet, you can expect to feel a lot better.
BALCO struggled financially until 1996 when Conte began "consulting" with several elite athletes. It was around that time that Conte switched his emphasis from testing mineral balances in athletes to providing them with performance-enhancing drugs that could . . .