Doping unchecked in athletes as young as 12, research shows

The use of performance enhancing drugs is prevalent and unmonitored in juniorelite athletes as young as 12, according to research by Griffith University and the
University of Canberra that will be presented tomorrow.

The three-year study, in which more than 900 athletes aged from 12-17 wereinterviewed, shows that about four per cent of elite junior athletes are usingperformance or image enhancing drugs.

University of Canberra associate professor in psychology Dr Stephen Moston —who co-authored the report with Griffith University’s Dr Terry Engelberg and
Professor James Skinner — thinks the practice might be going unchecked due toa lack of testing.

“There is evidence suggesting that athletes as young as 12 years of age useperformance enhancing drugs, and that such use has increased in the pastdecade. This study indicates that performance enhancing drugs and supplementuse (a potential precursor of doping) are now relatively prevalent amongst youngelite athletes,” Dr Moston said.

“Given that young athletes are rarely subject to anti-doping testing, the potentialincrease of drug use is largely going unchecked. Both anti-doping education and
detection efforts must be expanded to incorporate such populations.”

Key findings of the report Tracking the Development of Attitudes to Doping: ALongitudinal Study of Young Elite Athletes:
– Young athletes think that about a third of elite athletes use performance
enhancing drugs
– Almost five per cent of junior athletes have been offered performance
enhancing drugs and over 10 per cent believed that they were
competing against athletes who used such drugs
– About a third of young athletes use nutritional supplements. Nearly all
users (90 per cent) of performance enhancing drugs also use nutritional

In their similar research study on adult elite athletes and support staff that will alsobe discussed at the event, the team found that eight per cent of athletes have
been offered performance enhancing drugs, while the adult sports communitythink 20 per cent of athletes are using them.

“A substantial number of the athletes surveyed are currently using nutritionalsupplements and most of these have unrealistic expectations of their performance
enhancing impact,” Dr Engelberg said.

“Many athletes and support staff hold misconceptions about doping, such as thebelief that doping does not occur in their own sport.”

Both studies were commissioned by the Australian Government’s Anti-DopingResearch Program.