WOMEN who use steroids may be at higher risk of negative effects because discussions around the issue are often dominated by men, according to research at the University of Stirling.

A study, which investigated the role of gender on an online forum for steroid users found that men’s voices were overtaking those of females, meaning it was difficult for them to come together as a community and share experiences.

The university’s Dr April Henning, lecturer in sport, presented the findings at an international symposium on doping.

She said: “Our research focuses on the experiences of women fitness doping users – those using image and performance enhancing drugs, mainly anabolic steroids in this study – and how they navigate an online space dedicated to their use.

“Looking at the role that gender – specifically hegemonic masculinity – played in their experiences, we found that women’s voices were often drowned out by men’s, even in the part of the forum dedicated to women.

“The findings are concerning because, if women are struggling to come together to share their own embodied experiences, perceptions, advice and knowledge, they may be using these drugs with less knowledge and expertise – and less knowledge leads to a higher risk.”

Dr Henning worked on the research, thought to be the first to consider the situation of everyday women not just bodybuilders or athletes, alongside co-author Dr Jesper Andreasson, associate professor at Linnaeus University in Sweden.

Dr Henning added: “Most harm reduction services target male users of image and performance enhancing drugs, therefore, understanding women and their patterns of use is key to reducing risk.”