Anabolic steroids are synthetic substances related to male sex hormones (androgens). Although it is illegal in the United States to possess or distribute anabolic steroids for nonmedical use, a "black market" for them exists, and many amateur and professional athletes take them to enhance performance. In many cases, the athletes take doses that are extremely high—perhaps 100 times the doses that might be prescribed for medical use. As a result, they put themselves in real danger of short-term and long-term health problems. Blood testing, as has been used in the Olympic Games, can detect, identify, and quantify the presence of anabolic steroids in the blood of athletes, which can lead to the disqualification of an athlete.
The secretion of hypothalamic, pituitary, and target tissue hormones is under tight regulatory control by a series of feedback and feed- forward loops. This complexity can be demonstrated using the growth hormone (GH) regulatory system as an example. The stimulatory substance growth hormone releasing hormone (GHRH) and the inhibitory substance somatostatin (SS) both products of the hypothalamus, control pituitary GH secretion. Somatostatin is also called growth hormone-inhibiting hormone (GHIH). Under the influence of GHRH, growth hormone is released into the systemic circulation, causing the target tissue to secrete insulin-like growth factor-1, IGF-1. Growth hormone also has other more direct metabolic effects; it is both hyperglycemic and lipolytic. The principal source of systemic IGF-1 is the liver, although most other tissues secrete and contribute to systemic IGF-1. Liver IGF-1 is considered to be the principal regulator of tissue growth. In particular, the IGF-1 secreted by the liver is believed to synchronize growth throughout the body, resulting in a homeostatic balance of tissue size and mass. IGF-1 secreted by peripheral tissues is generally considered to be autocrine or paracrine in its biological action.