Children as young as 11 use drugs to win at sport

According to French researchers athletes as young as eleven admit to using drugs to enhance their sporting performance.

After questioning youngsters over a four year period it was found that 44% of the children gave the use of the drugs as a reason for winning at least one sporting event.

The authors began the study by questioning 3,500 eleven-year olds at the start of their first year of secondary school in Vosges in eastern France in November 2001 about their use of drugs banned under the World Anti-Doping Agency International Standard.

The children completed questionnaires every six months about their use of doping agents, tobacco, alcohol and cannabis; involvement in sports; and assessed self-esteem and anxiety.

The French team found that more than one per cent of eleven year olds admitted to using performance enhancing drugs to do better in sports but by age 15, the number had increased from 1.2 to 3% and they were then being used on a regular basis.

While 62% of eleven years olds used doping agents less than once per month, at 15 the same number were using them at least every week and 24% on a daily basis.

Most commonly used to improve sporting prowess was the drug salbutamol, which was taken by 45% of users; 10% took corticosteroids and 6% cannabis and other stimulants and 38% anabolic agents.

Boys were more likely to take the drugs than girls and 4% experienced health problems, because of doping including becoming violent, changes to the voice and loss of consciousness.

Drug use was linked to sex, number of hours of practice per week, intention to use, other drug use, low self-esteem and anxiety.

The study is published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

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