Sports medicine experts said nandrolone — a steroid that boosts muscle mass, adds bone density and increases stamina — has been previously detected in athletes and players involved in sports that demand strength, high speed and endurance.
“Nandrolone is typically associated with power sports such as weight-lifting or sprinting,” said Dr I.P.S Oberoi, an orthopaedic surgeon and member of the Indian Association of Sports Medicine.
“But its ability to increase stamina would also allow a bowler to stay on the field and perform longer,” Oberoi said.
Nandrolone occurs in tiny quantities naturally in the human body. Sports authorities have set an upper limit of two nanograms per millilitre in a urine sample.
Although any higher value is viewed with suspicion, sports medicine experts said it need not necessarily mean wrongdoing.
Certain dietary supplements, herbal preparations, or even other steroids might break down into the same residual compounds that nandrolone breaks down into and sound a false alarm for nandrolone, the experts said.
For instance, a person who has consumed large amounts of meat contaminated with a steroid might test positive.
A German laboratory accredited to the International Olympic Committee had a few years ago cautioned about the presence of steroids in dietary supplements, sports science specialist Ronald Maughan had pointed out in a publication in May 2001.
A single tablet would have led to a failed dope test, but the dietary supplements had no labels stating that they contained steroids, Maughan had said.
Sports medicine experts said the tests on the two Pakistani bowlers would have to be repeated.
“Nandrolone can linger in the body longer than typical drugs and could thus be detected in urine samples many weeks after it was taken,” said a doctor with the Sports Authority of India.