Doping in Junior Athletes 'a Matter of Concern' - Study

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Junior athletes, as young as 12, are reportedly using performance-enhancing drugs. This was revealed in a three-year study conducted by the University of Canberra and Griffith University.

The research involved studying more than 900 athletes for three years. Researchers of Canberra and Griffith University found performance-enhancing drugs are being used by nearly 4 percent of young athletes between 12 and 17 age groups. It also showed one in three junior athletes use nutritional supplements.

The findings were "extremely troubling," Stephen Moston, University of Canberra associate professor in psychology, said as quoted by Canberra Times.

"We don't do much testing of young children and they're very much aware of that. They're growing up in a culture where they think elite athletes are using drugs, they think it's really common and young athletes think they have to take drugs to be like the elite athletes they see on TV," Moston added.

"Their thinking patterns are very similar to those of adults, they expect drugs, and even, supplements to have this magical effect to turn them from an average athlete into a super athlete."

Moston is also very concerned about the pressure faced by young athletes.

"A lot of the emphasis, even in junior sport, is more about winning rather than skill development. There's a real pressure that if you're not taking drugs, that you're putting yourself at a real disadvantage. We know that adults feel those same sorts of pressures," Moston noted.

Referring to doping as "contrary to the spirit of sport," Jenny Priest, sports and recreation services director, said, "ACTAS and SRS are fully supportive of, and active in, the fight against doping in sport."

Priest added all athletes and scholars at the ACTAS strictly follow the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority protocols.

The researchers also observed adult athletes and found that nearly 8 percent of them had been offered performance drugs by their teammates at one time or the other.

The Australian government's anti-doping program has commissioned both these studies.

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