Death of MMA Fighter Kimbo Slice Highlights Dangers of Anabolic Steroid Abuse


The recent death of street fighter, boxer, and mixed martial artist Kevin Kimbo Slice" Ferguson due to heart failure is an unfortunate event that has fans and media speculating if past anabolic steroid use may have played a roll

The recent death of Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson has fans and media speculating whether the mixed martial arts fighter’s past anabolic steroid use may have played a role.

Ferguson had a history of anabolic steroid use and tested positive for nandrolone following his most recent bout. Although anabolic steroid-related cardiovascular disease (CVD) hasn’t been confirmed as the cause of death, it does raise the issue of banned substances and athlete safety, and it also highlights the potential dangers of anabolic steroid use outside the supervision of health care professionals.

Anabolic steroids are controlled substances that pharmacists commonly dispense and counsel patients on. Therefore, it’s important for pharmacists to be aware of the long-term effects these medications can have, even when they’re taken as directed.1

Many anabolic steroids are molecularly similar to the endogenous androgen testosterone. Examples of prescription anabolic steroids include nandrolone, methyltestosterone, and danazol. These drugs can be used legitimately to treat conditions like anemia, hypogonadism, and wasting syndromes.

Patients in need of these agents can benefit greatly from their use, but anabolic steroids can also be abused. Unsupervised or illicit use of these anabolic androgens by those looking to build muscle quickly for aesthetic or competitive reasons can have dramatic long- and short-term effects.2

Short-term side effects of illicit anabolic steroid use may include mood changes, acne vulgaris, reduction in gonad size, and gynecomastia. Long-term effects often include neuropsychiatric effects, prostate hypertrophy, and adverse CV effects.3

Chronic anabolic steroid use can lead to left ventricular hypertrophy, cardiomyopathy, hypertension, and atherosclerosis, among others. These adverse CV effects can persist even after the individual stops taking anabolic steroids, and they can increase the risk for serious CV events like myocardial infarction.4

Many patients who take anabolic steroids without medical supervision are unaware of the serious long-term health consequences, even with a modest duration of use. One study found powerlifters who used anabolic steroids displayed a 4.6-fold higher mortality rate than the control group. Coronary artery disease, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, dyslipidemia, and hypertension were seen in many of the subjects.5

Pharmacists are in a unique position to educate patients about the potential abuse of anabolic steroids and how to take appropriate precautions to prevent it. Pharmacists can also play a role in educating other health care providers on the risks of using anabolic steroids to treat patients with preexisting CVD.

Ultimately, the pressure to excel in sports can lead to individuals taking enormous health risks by using anabolic steroids. Reports exposing scandals in professional sports frequently focus on the use of performance-enhancing drugs, yet fail to mention the long-term damage that they can do in athletes’ bodies.

Unsupervised anabolic steroid use can damage more than just athletic legacy. Unfortunately, it often takes a tragedy to highlight the detrimental health effects of medication misuse.


1. Laure P, Kriebitzsch-Lejeune A. Retail pharmacists and doping in sports: knowledge and attitudes. A national survey in France. Sci Sports. 2000;15(3):141-146.

2. Hartgens F, Kuipers H. Effects of androgenic-anabolic steroids in athletes. Sports Med. 2004;34(8):513-554.

3. Kanayama G, Hudson JI, Pope HG. Long-term psychiatric and medical consequences of anabolic-androgenic steroid abuse: a looming public health concern? Drug Alcohol Depend. 2008;98(1-2):1-12.

4. Payne JR, Kotwinski PJ, Montgomery HE. Cardiac effects of anabolic steroids. Heart. 2004; 90(5):473-475.

5. Parssinen M, Kujala U, Vartiainen E, Sarna S, Seppala T. Increased premature mortality of competitive powerlifters suspected to have used anabolic agents. Int J Sports Med. 2000; 21(3):225-227.

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