The Problem of Amateur Sports Doping

Woman kickboxing

BBC Sport recently conducted a poll on the state of drug use in sports, particularly at an amateur level. 1,025 nationally representative British adults, who are members of sports clubs, teams or gyms, were interviewed online in January 2017 and unfortunately the results are rather alarming.

It found that more than a third of amateur sports people know someone who had doped, and 8% said they had taken steroids themselves. Half believed that performance enhancing substance use is ’widespread’ among those who play sports competitively.

According to figures from ‘UK Anti-Doping’, which is the national body responsible for protecting clean sport, there are currently 52 athletes and coaches serving bans.

So why do amateurs dope?

Of those interviewed who had specifically taken anabolic steroids:

  • 41% said it was for improving performance
  • 40% said it was for pain relief
  • 34% said it was for improving how they look

However, when these answers are widened out to include those who admitted taking other performance-enhancing substances the figures change:

  • Over half say they were primarily used for pain relief
  • 25% of users claim it was for improving performance
  • 17% said they were used to improve looks
Gym users

Who is doping?

Per the poll, it is younger people who are the main users of anabolic steroids in amateur sports:

  • 13% of those aged between 18-34 say they have taken steroids specifically to support performance or recovery.
  • Users aged between 35-54 were found to be more likely using steroids for pain relief.
  • No one interviewed aged 55 or over said they had used anabolic steroids.

Are steroids the only problem?

According to the poll, a wide range of substances—both legal and illegal—are being taken. Performance-enhancing substances include recreational drugs and prescribed medications too:

  • 26% of amateur sports people said they have taken prescribed medications such as cortisone injections or asthma inhalers.
  • 14% said they have taken recreational drugs such as cocaine, MDMA or cannabis.
  • 8% said they have taken anabolic steroids such as nandrolone, testosterone or HGH.
  • 36% who reported consuming recreational drugs to support their performance had also taken steroids.

What can be done?

UKAD has an annual budget of around £7m, mainly from state funding, which seems great, but a single drug test costs a whopping £350. Understandably, UKAD directs the vast majority of its funding to testing in elite sport, and just doesn’t have the resources to thoroughly drug test the amateur community.

There are many different options and routes to go down regarding this problem, and in reality, we will probably need a combination of them all to make a real difference to such widespread doping.

  • An investment from individual sports governing bodies; potentially taken directly from ticket sales.
  • UKAD is in need of an extension of its powers; and increase work done in combination with the police to target the suppliers of these drugs to amateur sportsmen and women.
  • And in my opinion what is always the most important factor—education. There is a woefully inadequate campaign against doping in sports. From the data found in the poll, education must start early on, must address pain relief and must tackle body image, as well as solely performance enhancing.
  • Where needed drug abuse rehabilitation should be introduced. The Narconon Drug Rehabilitation programme can help an athlete who has become addicted to drugs to stop using them and remain drug free.

Maybe with a real campaign using a combination of the above factors, we could make doping in sports, uncool and something everyone steers clear of.

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If you know of any sports men or women who have watched their ambitions drain away with drug use, get in touch and see how our drug rehabilitation programme can help.


Narconon UK

Welcome to Narconon United Kingdom At Narconon, we are dedicated to one thing: helping you overcome addiction for good. Part of what makes this possible is the Narconon environment. Every detail has been taken into account to give you the stability and comfort to help you free yourself from addiction and rebuild your life without drugs.