Performance Enhancing Drugs in Sports

Drugs in sport: why testing is not enough

Doping in sport will not be eradicated by testing alone. That is the conclusion of a new study from Finland surveying elite athletes’ attitudes and beliefs about the use of banned drugs in sport.

In 2002, all of the 494 athletes eligible for financial support from the National Olympic Committee were asked to complete a questionnaire about drugs. Amazingly, 446 of them did so – a very high response rate of 90.3%.

The athletes were divided into these four groups:

  • Speed and power athletes – of whom the largest sub-group were from track and field;
  • Endurance athletes – largest sub-group cross-country skiers;
  • Athletes in skill-based events – largest sub-group shooters;
  • Team-sport athletes – mostly ice hockey players.

The most significant findings were as follows:

  • More than 90% believed that banned substances and methods have performance-enhancing benefits;
  • 30% (more men than women) personally knew an athlete who used banned substances. This included 42.5% of speed and power athletes and 37% of endurance athletes. Skill-based athletes were least likely to know drug users;
  • 15% had been offered banned substances themselves – unsurprisingly no one admitted taking them. Speed and power athletes were most likely to have been offered drugs (21%), followed by team sport and skill-based athletes (14%) and endurance athletes (10%);
  • Stimulants were the substances offered most often (to 7.2%), followed by anabolic steroids (to 4.1%).

The most heartening finding of the survey was that the vast majority of the athletes (96.9%) believed it is possible to make it to the top internationally without using banned substances or methods.

‘Controlling doping only by tests is not sufficient,’ conclude the researchers. ‘A profound change in attitudes is needed, which should be monitored repeatedly.’

Int J Sports Med DOI 10.1055/s-2005-872969

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