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Some preadolescent athletes are using prohibited substances (“doping”) including those engaged in leisure, rather than competitive, sport. A prospective study of all 3564 pupils (mean age 11.2 years) entering secondary education in the Vosges region of eastern France in 2001-2 has shown that by 2005, 3% (95% confidence interval 2.3% to 3.7%) admitted taking doping agents at least once in the preceding six months, compared with 1.2% (0.8% to 1.6%) at study entry. The main substances were salbutamol, corticosteroids, and cannabis, as well as other stimulants and anabolic agents. The investigators state they took account of the exemption for therapeutic use granted to asthmatic athletes by making it clear to the young people that they were not asking about medication for ill health.
Of those taking doping agents, 44% considered they had won at least one event as a result and 18% did not know whether they had. Compared with non-users, users were more likely to be male, spend a lot of time in training, and report low self esteem and high levels of trait anxiety. The authors recommend that adults supervising young athletes should be alert to this last two signs.