Stay out of SARMs way

21 Aug 2022

Unsafe. Illegal. Prohibited in sport.

Open supplement containers on a production line.

Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators (SARMs) are experimental drugs. It’s claimed that they build muscle mass and bone density, and that they do it without the side effects of steroids. But SARMs haven’t been fully studied. What we do know about them tells us that, despite the hype, SARMs pose a very real risk to health.

Despite this, the presence of SARMs is increasing. Testing figures from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) show that they’ve been responsible for an increasing number of positive tests since 2010. We’re worried that athletes – especially recreational athletes – may not be aware of the risks involved in taking these substances. That’s concerning, particularly because the consequences of SARM use can be so serious. Athletes at any level who buy, possess or use SARMs could face an anti-doping rule violation and a ban from all sport.

Unsafe for human consumption

SARMs haven’t completed clinical trials and haven’t been approved for use in humans. That’s why they’re often marketed online as research chemicals, with ‘For Research Purposes Only’ on the label. Although they’re claimed to have fewer side effects than steroids, we know that SARMs pose a serious health risk. Their known side effects can be lift-threatening, from liver damage to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. The long-term side-effects, or the way they interact with other substances (e.g. alcohol), are unknown.

The most commonly abused SARMs are Ligandrol (LGD-4033), Ostarine (Enobosarm, S-22 or MK-2866) and Andarine (S-4). Other examples include Testolone (RAD140), S23 and YK11.

Prohibited in sport and illegal in NZ

SARMs are prohibited in sport at all times (both in- and out-of-competition) under Section S1.2 of the WADA Prohibited List. SARMs are also illegal in New Zealand.

Being illegal means that they’re often purchased like anabolic steroids: online and through the black market. There’s no way to tell what’s really in products sold in this way. They might not contain SARMs at all, or they might be contaminated with other ingredients that are likewise dangerous, illegal and/or banned in sport. An American study showed this to be the case: they found that almost 50% of the SARMs products they bought online didn’t contain any SARMs at all.

Proven supplement contaminants

Simple, you may think. I’ll just avoid supplements that say they contain SARMs.

Unfortunately, that may not be enough. Despite the fact that SARMs aren’t legal in supplements, supplements may contain them anyway – whether intentionally or through contamination. There are multiple instances in recent years of athletes being sanctioned due to SARM-contaminated supplements – particularly Ostarine. Consider the cases of CrossFit athlete Larissa Cunha, of Triathlete Lauren Barnett (who is sueing the supplement company that manufactured the contaminated products) and of UFC fighter Jimmy Wallhead.

Supplement contamination: A real risk in NZ

Athletes, support teams and parents need to know that contamination is a risk, no matter how ‘legit’ a product’s packaging might look. A recent Consumer NZ investigation found illegal drugs and prohibited substances in six products from NZ supplement stores, showing that it’s a very real issue right here in New Zealand.

If you’re an athlete considering using a supplement, please first make sure you understand the risks by reading through our Supplement Decision Making Guide.

Speak Out

If you’ve seen someone using SARMs, or suspect that they are, you can report your concerns to us in confidence.