The Veiled Reality: Steroid Use Among Female CrossFit Athletes

  • By: Dave Moffat
  • Date: July 14, 2023
crossfit women on steroids

Welcome to our deep dive into the world of CrossFit, a high-intensity sport that combines weightlifting, gymnastics, and cardiovascular training into one comprehensive workout.

The beauty of CrossFit lies in its ‘Workout of the Day’ (WOD) philosophy, which keeps the regimen diverse and challenging. This high-intensity, functional movement-based training aims to enhance individuals’ competency in various realms, including aerobic capacity and strength.

However, CrossFit’s intensity is often a topic of debate. Some argue that while volume and frequency are essential in CrossFit training, intensity isn’t always necessary. Nevertheless, CrossFit remains a popular choice for those seeking a strenuous workout, often compared to HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training), although they are not entirely the same.

CrossFit has seen rapid growth since its inception in 2003, earning recognition as a ‘sport of fitness’ due to its varied, high-intensity functional movements.

As we delve deeper into the intricacies of this exciting sport, we’ll also touch on a darker aspect prevalent in various sports, including CrossFit: the use of steroids.

So, stay tuned as we unpack the highs and lows of CrossFit as a high-intensity sport.

Steroids in CrossFit: A Major Problem? 

CrossFit is not an exception to the specter of performance-enhancing drugs that have plagued the world of sports for decades. The high-intensity nature of CrossFit, coupled with the competitive spirit it fosters, can make the sport susceptible to steroid use as athletes look for ways to gain an edge.

Steroids, or more specifically, anabolic steroids, are synthetically produced variants of the naturally occurring male hormone testosterone. They promote muscle growth and strength, aspects that are particularly beneficial in a demanding sport like CrossFit. However, their use is not without significant health risks, including heart disease, liver damage, and mental health issues.

Despite rigorous testing protocols, the prevalence of steroid use in CrossFit is a contentious issue. Some argue that the problem is more widespread than reported due to sophisticated doping techniques that can evade detection. Others maintain that while steroid use does exist, its extent within the community is overblown.

Regardless, the issue of steroid use in CrossFit and sports, in general, is a serious one. As spectators, we marvel at the physical feats of these athletes, but it’s crucial to remember the importance of competing cleanly. Not only for the integrity of the sport but for the health and well-being of the athletes themselves.

What You Need to Know About Steroids

Steroids are a class of biologically active organic compounds with four rings arranged in a specific molecular configuration. They include many hormones, alkaloids, and vitamins. There are two main types of steroids: corticosteroids and anabolic steroids.

Corticosteroids, also known as glucocorticoids, are naturally occurring hormones produced by the adrenal glands. They serve many functions in the body, including controlling inflammation, reducing immune system activity, and helping the body respond to stress.

When used as medication, corticosteroids work by mimicking the effects of the hormones your body produces naturally in your adrenal glands. By doing this, they can reduce inflammation and suppress the immune system, making them useful in treating a variety of conditions, from asthma and allergies to autoimmune diseases like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.

Anabolic steroids, on the other hand, are synthetic substances similar to the male sex hormone testosterone. They promote the growth of skeletal muscle (anabolic effects) and the development of male sexual characteristics (androgenic effects). Athletes sometimes use these drugs in an attempt to improve performance or increase their physical appearance.

However, misuse of anabolic steroids can lead to serious health problems, such as heart disease, liver damage, and mental health issues. It’s important to remember that while steroids can have medical uses, they should always be used under the supervision of a healthcare professional.

The Demands of CrossFit

CrossFit is a high-intensity fitness regimen that demands a lot from athletes. Its unique blend of strength training, cardiovascular endurance, and functional fitness exercises puts a significant amount of stress on the body, requiring athletes to be in top physical condition.

One of the key components of CrossFit is the “Workout of the Day,” or WOD, which can vary greatly, keeping the athletes’ bodies guessing. This variety ensures that athletes are well-rounded in their fitness, developing strength, power, speed, agility, balance, and accuracy.

Physiologically, CrossFit workouts often push athletes to their maximum capacity. The intensity of the workouts can result in a mean heart rate above 90% of the maximum heart rate, indicating how hard the cardiovascular system is working during a session.

CrossFit places a heavy emphasis on high-intensity, functional movements. These movements often involve multiple joints and muscle groups, requiring significant strength and coordination.

Therefore, the muscles undergo rigorous physical training that could lead to exertional rhabdomyolysis (ER), a condition that occurs when muscle tissue breaks down rapidly, leading to severe muscle pain and weakness.

CrossFit workouts frequently incorporate weightlifting and gymnastic routines, which place a high demand on the muscular system and require excellent mobility and flexibility.

Has Tia Claire Toomey taken steroids

The Allure of Performance-Enhancing Drugs

In the competitive world of CrossFit, athletes are constantly seeking ways to improve their performance and gain an edge. For some female CrossFit athletes, this might mean turning to steroids. While the use of performance-enhancing drugs is not exclusive to any gender, it’s crucial to understand why some female athletes might be drawn to using steroids.

One of the primary reasons is the desire for increased strength and muscle mass. Anabolic steroids, synthetic versions of testosterone, can enhance muscle growth and recovery, allowing athletes to train harder and recover faster. This can be particularly enticing in a sport like CrossFit, where strength and power are paramount.

Another factor is the pressure to perform. The competitive nature of CrossFit, coupled with societal expectations around body image, can create a high-pressure environment. Some female athletes may feel compelled to use steroids to keep up with their peers or meet certain aesthetic standards.

Steroids can also enhance endurance and reduce fatigue, enabling athletes to train more intensely and increase their workout volume. In a sport characterized by high-intensity workouts and competitions, this can be a significant advantage.

It’s important to note that while steroids can offer short-term benefits, their use comes with significant health risks, including heart disease, liver damage, and mental health issues. Furthermore, the use of steroids goes against the spirit of fair play and is banned in most sports, including CrossFit.

CrossFit Women on Steroids?

Several female CrossFit athletes have tested positive for using steroids. These include:

  • Stella Christoforou: The athlete tested positive for an unspecified substance.
  • Elia Navarro: The Spanish CrossFit athlete tested positive for Oxandrolone, an anabolic steroid.
  • Anna Fragkou: This Greek athlete violated CrossFit’s Drug Testing policy, as evidenced by a test administered at the 2019 CrossFit Games.
  • Danijela Hodges: A master’s athlete in the Women’s 50-54 division, Hodges failed to submit to a drug test when notified and received a four-year sanction starting March 19, 2023.

These instances highlight the issue of steroid use in competitive sports, even in a community-focused fitness regimen like CrossFit.

The Risks and Consequences of Steroid Use

The use of anabolic steroids carries numerous health risks, both short-term and long-term.

  • Cardiovascular issues: Steroids can increase heart rate, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels, leading to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • Liver and Kidney Damage: Prolonged steroid use can cause liver damage and even liver failure. The kidneys can also be affected, potentially leading to kidney disease or kidney failure.
  • Musculoskeletal system: In teenagers and adolescents, steroid use can prematurely halt growth by causing bones to mature more quickly than normal. They can also lead to muscle weakness.
  • Psychological Effects: Steroids can cause mood swings, aggression, hallucinations, and other mental health problems. Some people may also develop a psychological dependency on steroids.
  • Reproductive System: In males, steroid use can lead to impotence, reduced sperm production, testicular shrinkage, and breast enlargement. In females, steroids can cause menstrual irregularities, the development of masculine features, and the deepening of the voice.
  • Other Side Effects: Other side effects can include acne, fluid retention, rapid weight gain, increased growth of body hair, and premature balding.

Drug Testing and Regulation in CrossFit

Drug testing in CrossFit is a crucial part of ensuring fair play and athlete health. Here’s how it generally works:

  • Selection for Testing: Athletes can be chosen for drug testing at any time, both in competition (like during the CrossFit Games) and out of competition. Selection can be random or targeted.
  • Sample Collection: Once selected, an athlete will provide a urine or blood sample. This process is supervised to ensure no tampering occurs.
  • Lab Analysis: The samples are then shipped to a laboratory, where they are tested for a wide range of substances that are prohibited by CrossFit’s Drug Testing Policy. These include but are not limited to anabolic agents, hormones and metabolic modulators, diuretics and masking agents, stimulants, and narcotics.
  • Results Management: If a substance is found in the sample, the athlete is informed and given a chance to explain. If the athlete cannot provide a satisfactory explanation (such as a Therapeutic Use Exemption), they may face sanctions.
  • Sanctions: Penalties for violations can range from disqualification from a single event to a lifetime ban from all CrossFit-sanctioned events, depending on the severity of the violation.
  • Public Disclosure: CrossFit also reserves the right to publicly disclose information about the drug test and the athlete’s violation.

By implementing and enforcing this drug testing protocol, CrossFit aims to maintain a level playing field and uphold the integrity of the sport.

The Power of Natural Training

Many successful female CrossFit athletes advocate for clean, natural training. They prove that it’s possible to achieve great results without resorting to performance-enhancing drugs.

  • Annie Thorisdottir: A two-time CrossFit Games champion from Iceland, Thorisdottir is well-known for her commitment to clean training and her advocacy for health and fitness.
  • Katrin Davidsdottir: Another Icelandic athlete and two-time CrossFit Games champion, Davidsdottir also emphasizes the importance of natural training and hard work.
  • Tia-Clair Toomey: The Australian athlete is a multiple-time CrossFit Games champion and an Olympic weightlifter. She is a strong advocate for clean sports.

These athletes, among others, set a positive example for the CrossFit community and beyond. Their success demonstrates that steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs are not necessary to compete at a high level.

Tips and strategies for naturally enhancing performance include:

  • Balanced Diet: A well-rounded, nutritious diet fuels the body for intense workouts and aids in recovery.
  • Regular Training: Consistency is key in CrossFit. Regular training helps improve strength, endurance, and technique.
  • Adequate Rest: Rest days are just as important as training days. They allow the body to recover and build strength.
  • Mental Conditioning: Developing mental toughness can help athletes push through challenging workouts and perform under pressure.
  • Proper Hydration: Staying hydrated is crucial for maintaining energy levels and preventing muscle cramps during workouts.
  • Mobility Work: Regular stretching and mobility work can enhance performance by improving flexibility, preventing injuries, and speeding up recovery.


The use of steroids in CrossFit, or any sport, presents significant health risks and ethical dilemmas. Such practices not only undermine the spirit of fair competition but also jeopardize the health of athletes. The cases of female CrossFit athletes who have tested positive for steroids serve as cautionary tales about the potential damage to one’s career and reputation.

Successful female CrossFit athletes like Annie Thorisdottir, Katrin Davidsdottir, and Tia-Clair Toomey show the power of clean, natural training. Their achievements underscore the importance of hard work, dedication, and a commitment to health.

As a community, it is essential to continue advocating for clean competition and natural athlete development. It is also crucial to educate athletes about the dangers of steroid use. This way, we can maintain the integrity of the sport and ensure that CrossFit remains a platform where athletes can showcase their abilities and strengths naturally and fairly.

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Hi, I'm Dave Moffat the founder and Chief Editor of and certified International Personal Trainer and Certified Nutritionist. My passion has always been bodybuilding but with 15 years' experience in weight loss programs too, it's hard not to mention all that when you're working at your fitness level fullest (I hope). When Im not in the gym or spending time away from my family i often think about what advice would help others achieve theirs goals just like these inspired mine.