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Drug Use in Sports
Thu Apr 11,10:27 AM ET
By Patricia Reaney
LONDON (Reuters) - Illegal drug use in both professional and
amateur sports is much more widespread and entrenched than
doctors and most people realize, according to a report
launched on Thursday.
Up to 60,000 bodybuilders, athletes and fitness enthusiasts in
London and as many as 150,000 across Britain are using
anabolic steroids at dangerous dosages to enhance their
physique and improve performance.
The long-term effects of the substances are still unknown but
doctors fear they could cause mini epidemics of heart disease,
strokes and liver tumors in the coming decades.
"It is a deeply entrenched and complex phenomenon," Dr. Ivan
Waddington, of Leicester University, told a news conference.
Although the report "Drugs in Sport" deals with the problem in
Britain, Waddington said it reflects what is happening in most
"The pattern is broadly similar in western Europe, America and
Canada in relation to elite sports and gymnasia," he said.
From Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson failed drug test at the
1988 Seoul Olympics to the revelations of doping in the 1998
Tour de France or the loss of Scottish skier Alain Baxter's
bronze medal after a positive test for a stimulant earlier
this year, drugs in sports is not a new problem.
It dates back to the 3rd century BC when ginseng and sheep
testicles were used to improve athletic ability, but it has
escalated since the 1930s with the use of amphetamines,
anabolic agents and growth hormones, and spread from Olympic
playing fields to gyms and fitness centers.
Nearly 50% of British athletes questioned in the Sports
Council survey felt that drug use was a problem in their
sport. The number rose to 83% for track and field.
Dr. Vivienne Nathanson, the head of ethics and science at the
British Medical Association, said performance enhancing drugs
that can be obtained on the Internet through illegal imports
and other sources are extremely potent and can cause heart
disease, stroke and liver tumors with long-term use.
"These drugs are potentially lethal and people using them are
risking their lives," she said. "It is a public health problem
because the numbers are so large."
The report called for policy makers to develop a more tailored
response to the problem of doping in sport with full support
from governments and sporting bodies at the domestic and
Tighter controls should be considered on the supply of drugs
where their therapeutic use is limited, the report states,
such as human growth hormones.
It also said the merits of a drug passport scheme should be
evaluated and tested in a pilot program and further research
is also needed into the motives for drug use and the long-term