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Epitestosterone, also called isotestosterone or 17 α-testosterone, is an endogenous steroid and an epimer of the sex hormone testosterone. It has a role as an androgen antagonist (thus reducing effect of testosterone on certain body parts), 5α-reductase inhibitor (thus having other actions on the body) and a human metabolite.
Epitestosterone differs from a testosterone only structurally as in the configuration it possesses hydroxy-bearing carbon.
Although this chemical element was first isolated from human urine in 1964, its physiologic role has not been fully established.
Epitestosterone is considered to form in a similar way to testosterone as scientists discovered that almost 50 % of epitestosterone in human males is produced in the testis, the male reproductive gland. Although many aspects of these process require further research. Also, epitestosterone can accumulate in mammary cyst and in the prostate.
The levels of epitestosterone are naturally higher in a young male, and with age, its amount decreases. Healthy adult male exhibit testosterone to epitestosterone ratio of about 1:1.
Body level of epitestosterone is not increased by taking synthetic testosterone. It means ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone (in urine) can be used to detect the use of anabolic steroids. However, not all men have 1:1 ratio. Thus, International Olympic Committee standards allow considering up to 6:1 ratio as normal. But if ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone is above that like 8:1 in urine, this confirms the use of anabolic steroids.
The difference between a person who doesn’t go in for sports and professional athlete is significant. It is because top athletes and bodybuilders are often genetically advanced and their ratios do differ in comparison with those of the average man.
Considering this fact, in 1982, the testosterone/ epitestosterone ratio of 6:1 was officially set and applied to athletes by the International Olympic Committee Medical Commission. It happened after the Moscow Olympic Games of 1980 when a high frequency of testosterone abuse was suspected.
Since then, analytic methods to detect the administration of synthetic anabolic steroids have been improved. And in 2005 the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) lowered the legal ratio by one third and currently it makes 4:1.
But it is necessary to remember that the testosterone/ epitestosterone ratio differs regarding different races. Thus, Asian subpopulations excrete testosterone at a lower level than Caucasians, which results in a relatively low ratio between testosterone and epitestosterone. During the 10th Asian Games in Seoul a mean ration of 0,76 was determined. And this is significantly lower than the mean value for Caucasians.
But still, steroids are an essential part of training as they help to increase lean body mass, improve physical performance, strengthen muscles and bones. For athletes the question of masking performance-enhancing steroids usage is quite important.
Besides, it is necessary to consider that fact that adding synthetic testosterone prevents body from production of both natural products.
Injections of synthetic epitestosterone is one of the most effective and natural methods to solve this problem. It means that epitestosterone helps mask the use of anabolic steroids.
If you care enough to make sure the hormone stays within accepted limits, this ratio leaves open the possibility for a certain amount of exogenous testosterone. For those individuals who are already producing more testosterone than other participants of competitions, or for those who want to use more than they can sneak in under the detection, epitestosterone is used.
The concentration of epitestosterone is frequently low, and it may not always be possible to measure this substance precisely. In such cases, only the concentration of testosterone is to be determined.
However, epitestosterone may have other uses too. As already mentioned, that it is also a 5α-reductase inhibitor, it means that it may be used to reduce specific side effects of anabolic steroids like male pattern baldness, or prostate hypertrophy. Although, in practice epitestosterone is rarely used for the purpose as there are other more effective synthetic drugs for such cases.