The study, by scientists at the University of Oslo and set to be published today in The Journal of Physiology, found that mice treated with steroids reacquired muscle months later far more easily than untreated mice. Such potentially explosive results call into question the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (Wada) policy of issuing only a two-year ban for steroid use.
“The results in our mice may correspond to the effects of steroids lasting for decades in humans given the same cellular ‘muscle memory’ mechanism,” said Professor Kristian Gundersen. “The new results might spur a debate on the current World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) code.”
Marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe has called for drug cheats to be handed lifetime bans, forced to repay prize money and even jailed.
Until now it was thought that reacquisition of muscle mass following a spell of inactivity was a product of motor learning, whether involving steroids or not.
But Gundersen and colleagues believe they have discovered a memory mechanism within cells that aids those who have used steroids, even only briefly.