Studies show that the quality of illicit market products for human enhancement drugs is in general quite poor. For instance, this study analysed the quality of illegal steroids in the Netherlands confiscated in 1998 (N=98) and between 2000-2003 (N=203). The authors found that between 50-60% of the products did not match what was on the label. The steroids were either under- or over-dosed, and some even contained another active ingredient all together. Another problem is that several studies have found that black market steroids were contaminated (e.g. heavy metals). Other studies on human enhancement drugs such as weight-loss drugs and sexual enhancers show similar results regarding the doses of active pharmaceutical ingredients, contaminations and replacement of other alternative ingredients.
However, these problems do not only occur in the illicit market for human enhancement drugs, but similar problems have also been established in the legal market for nutritional supplements. There is a growing body of research which indicates that many supplements may be contaminated with “banned” and often dangerous substances. A 2004 study, for instance, tested 634 supplements purchased in 13 countries from 215 different suppliers. Of the 634 samples analysed 94 (14.8%) contained steroids. A more recent study tested 24 products sold in fitness shops in the UK that were suspected of containing steroids. Of the 24 products tested, 23 contained steroids including known anabolic agents.
Human enhancement drugs or supplement testing helps users to avoid ingesting unknown and potentially dangerous substances. In addition, this testing service can assist public health agencies in identifying trends in the illicit human enhancement drug markets, and provides supplement companies the guarantee that the tested nutritional supplements and/or ingredients are safe for their customers to use. Athletes, in particular, have to take care by choosing supplements that have been rigorously tested and approved prior to sale as they take personal responsibility for the risks that supplements carry.