Anabolics coaching: Emic harm reduction or a public health concern?

Nicholas Gibbs*, Luke Cox, Luke Turnock

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)
7 Downloads (Pure)


This article investigates the phenomena of ‘anabolics coaching’, which describes the practice of providing support and guidance on the appropriate and effective use of image and performance enhancing drugs (IPEDs), either as part of a more general PT relationship or as a stand-alone service. Building upon van de Ven and Mulrooney's (2017) notion of the ‘steroid mentor’, we utilise digital and offline ethnographic data as well as interviews with several anabolics coaches and their clients to shed light upon this practice and interrogate the nexus of harm-reduction, IPED normalisation, and the health and fitness industry. The article first examines the anabolics coaching market, before addressing coach and client motivation, as well as the troubling crossover between coaching and supply of IPEDs. It concludes by posing the question of whether anabolics coaching represents an ‘emic’ form of harm reduction, or whether it undermines and contradicts the public health efforts to promote safe consumption practices, where we ultimately argue that, although not unproblematic, anabolics coaching has the potential to bolster safer consuming practices and reduce IPED-related harm.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100227
Number of pages8
JournalPerformance Enhancement and Health
Issue number3
Early online date13 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2022
Externally publishedYes


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