Does The NBA Test for Steroids? The Complete Answer

Jimmy Remland
By Jimmy Remland 10 Min Read
10 Min Read

The NBA maintains a stringent anti-doping policy aimed at ensuring fair competition and safeguarding the health of its players. This article explores various aspects of the NBA’s steroid testing policy, including the substances banned, the testing process, and the consequences for players who test positive.

Prohibited Substances

The NBA’s banned substances list includes anabolic steroids, human growth hormone (HGH), stimulants, and other illegal drugs. The NBA, in collaboration with the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), enforces these bans to maintain the integrity of the sport and ensure player health. The prohibited substances are categorized into:

  • Performance-Enhancing Drugs (PEDs): These include anabolic steroids and HGH, which enhance physical performance but are banned to prevent unfair advantages.
  • Stimulants: These boost alertness and energy levels. Examples include amphetamines and cocaine, which are banned to ensure success comes from natural talent and dedication.
  • Other Illegal Substances: These include drugs that are illegal under law, emphasizing the NBA’s commitment to a drug-free sport​.

Does The NBA Test for Steroids?

Yes, NBA players undergo random drug testing throughout the season and the offseason. The league’s policy mandates that each player can be tested up to four times during the regular season and twice during the offseason. These tests are conducted randomly to deter drug use and ensure compliance with the anti-doping rules. The NBA’s testing program includes:

  • Regular Season Testing: Players may be tested up to four times, ensuring continuous adherence to the league’s drug policy.
  • Offseason Testing: Players undergo two random urine tests, maintaining accountability even when the season is over.

Drug Testing Process

The NBA uses a comprehensive testing process to detect banned substances:

  1. Random Selection: Players are randomly selected for testing through a computerized program.
  2. Sample Collection: Selected players provide urine samples under the observation of a drug testing officer. The samples are sent to a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)-accredited laboratory for analysis.
  3. Blood Testing: In addition to urine tests, the NBA can also conduct blood tests to screen for HGH. Blood samples are collected by certified phlebotomists and analyzed at WADA-accredited labs​​.

Consequences of Failing a Drug Test

The NBA imposes strict penalties on players who test positive for banned substances. The severity of the penalty depends on the substance and whether it is a first-time or repeat offense:

  • First Offense: A 25-game suspension and a fine of up to $25,000 for testing positive for anabolic steroids.
  • Second Offense: A 55-game suspension and a fine of up to $50,000.
  • Third Offense: A minimum two-year suspension​.

Cannabinoids and Marijuana

In 2020, the NBA and NBPA agreed to suspend marijuana testing temporarily during the COVID-19 pandemic. This suspension aimed to prioritize player health and safety. Although initially temporary, this policy has had lasting impacts on the league’s approach to marijuana testing​​.

Monitoring and Enforcement

The NBA’s drug testing protocol is robust and comprehensive, designed to ensure that all players adhere to the league’s strict anti-doping regulations. The league employs random selection and advanced laboratory analysis to monitor players effectively.

Random Selection Process

Players are randomly selected for drug testing throughout the season and offseason. This selection process is computerized, ensuring no player can predict or avoid being tested. The randomness deters players from using banned substances, knowing they could be tested at any time.

Laboratory Analysis

Collected samples are sent to WADA-accredited laboratories, where they undergo rigorous testing for a wide range of banned substances. These laboratories use state-of-the-art technology to detect even trace amounts of prohibited drugs, ensuring accurate and reliable results​​.

Banned Substances and Their Impact

The NBA’s banned substances list is extensive, covering performance-enhancing drugs, stimulants, and other illegal substances. The impact of these substances on performance and health can be significant.

Performance-Enhancing Drugs (PEDs)

  • Anabolic Steroids: These substances promote muscle growth and enhance athletic performance. However, they carry serious health risks, including liver damage, cardiovascular issues, and hormonal imbalances. Anabolic steroids are strictly banned to prevent players from gaining an unfair advantage and to protect their health.
  • Human Growth Hormone (HGH): HGH can enhance muscle mass and improve recovery times, but its use is associated with risks such as joint pain, insulin resistance, and increased risk of diabetes and heart disease​​.


  • Amphetamines: These drugs increase alertness and energy but can lead to severe health issues, including addiction, cardiovascular problems, and mental health disorders. The NBA bans these substances to ensure that players’ performances are based on their natural abilities and hard work.
  • Cocaine: Known for its short-term stimulant effects, cocaine is highly addictive and can cause severe cardiovascular and neurological damage. Its use is strictly prohibited in the NBA​.

Testing Frequency and Implementation

The NBA’s drug testing frequency ensures continuous monitoring of players throughout the year. Here’s a detailed look at the testing schedule:

Regular Season

During the regular season, each player can be tested up to four times. These tests are random, keeping players accountable and deterring the use of banned substances. The unpredictability of the tests helps maintain a level playing field​.


In the offseason, players undergo two random drug tests. This ensures that even when players are not actively competing, they remain subject to the league’s anti-doping policies. This year-round testing reinforces the NBA’s commitment to a drug-free sport​.

Case Studies and Penalties

Several high-profile cases illustrate the NBA’s strict enforcement of its anti-doping policies. Players who test positive for banned substances face significant penalties.

  • First Violation: A player testing positive for anabolic steroids faces a 25-game suspension and a fine of up to $25,000.
  • Second Violation: The penalty increases to a 55-game suspension and a fine of up to $50,000.
  • Third Violation: A player faces a minimum two-year suspension.

Notable Cases

  • John Collins: The Atlanta Hawks player was suspended for 25 games in 2019 after testing positive for a banned substance. His suspension underscored the NBA’s zero-tolerance policy towards performance-enhancing drugs.
  • Deandre Ayton: The Phoenix Suns’ center received a 25-game suspension in 2019 for testing positive for a diuretic, which is often used as a masking agent for other banned substances​​.

Final Words

The NBA’s rigorous drug testing program is essential for maintaining the integrity of the sport and ensuring the health and safety of its players. By enforcing strict anti-doping policies and conducting frequent, random tests, the NBA demonstrates its commitment to a fair and competitive environment. The penalties for violations are severe, reflecting the importance the league places on a drug-free sport.

Frequently Asked Questions

What NBA player tested positive for steroids?

John Collins of the Atlanta Hawks tested positive for a banned substance and received a 25-game suspension in 2019.

What drugs does the NBA test for?

The NBA tests for anabolic steroids, human growth hormone (HGH), stimulants like amphetamines and cocaine, diuretics, and other masking agents.

What is the penalty for using steroids in the NBA?

The penalty for using steroids in the NBA includes a 25-game suspension and a fine of up to $25,000 for the first offense, with increasing penalties for subsequent violations.

What NBA player failed a drug test?

Deandre Ayton of the Phoenix Suns failed a drug test in 2019, resulting in a 25-game suspension for testing positive for a diuretic.

Do NBA players take growth hormones?

NBA players are banned from taking growth hormones, and the league conducts blood tests to detect HGH as part of its anti-doping program.

What Lakers player was caught with drugs?

Lakers player Nick Young was involved in a drug-related incident when he was cited for marijuana possession in 2016.

Who was banned from NBA for drugs?

Tyreke Evans was banned from the NBA in 2019 for violating the league’s anti-drug policy, resulting in a two-year suspension.

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