The use of anabolic steroids has EXPLODED – and how we should tackle it
The use of anabolic steroids has exploded – look at our findings over the last year, it has increased dramatically. Steroids are now so easily accessible via the internet.
When it comes to steroid abuse, we’re seeing at lower levels of the sport, with young boys in rugby union, in rugby league, an increasing and worrying prevalence of steroid abuse.
It’s that level where they’re pushing and pushing and pushing to make the cut where the biggest problem, I think, lies. That’s the same for a number of sports.
I think there is a problem within the sport (rugby union). However, I caveat all of this by saying that I don’t think that there’s any one sport that could say that it doesn’t have a problem.
The amount of testing
The attention that is put on a sport is relative to how open they are to putting themselves under scrutiny – i.e. the amount of testing that is done.
There are some very obvious sports where a huge amount of investment has been made by international federations and anti-doping organisations. Inevitably, this skews the figures as there are other sports which do virtually no testing at all.
It is very easy to say that rugby has a problem, but so do a number of other sports. If you go looking for a problem, you’re either going to find that there is or isn’t a problem, but if you don’t go looking at all, then you’re not going to find anything.
The problems are different in different sports, and the issue that we are seeing with rugby has cemented our realisation that there is something bigger going on here that is a public health issue.
The statistics are showing the problems within rugby are not at an elite level, it is at a lower level, and at school and university level too.
I think that it ties in with the whole steroid use and body culture issue. I am not sensing that it is a systemic or institutional team issue. I think that there are some individuals that have pressure on them from some aspects of their lives.
It might be that their coach is telling them that they need to be bigger, stronger, faster in order to make the first 15. They act in isolation, for example by going on to the internet and ordering steroids and taking them.
There is an issue emerging that straddles sport, education and health. This is the increasing use of steroids that we are seeing in younger individuals, particularly the under-18s and boys.
They are using it not necessarily for performance-enhancing effects – although there are some that are. They are using it to look ‘buff’. They are using it to look good in front of their friends and to look attractive.
This stuff is dangerous. We are all different and we all respond to things that we take in different ways. But the health consequences of taking steroids are just enormous.
We sometimes intercept packages and we can see that what somebody has thought they are buying is not what they are buying.
Some of these underground labs are disgusting in terms of the conditions in which this stuff is made. You just really are dicing with your health.
The power of the internet is such that if you do a google search for steroids, you’ll find many internet sites where you can buy steroids. If you go onto YouTube, there’ll be somebody demonstrating how best to administer steroids, or to ‘stack’ them, so that they have the greatest benefit to you physically.
It is absolute madness. It is a challenge that will never go away. I’m not sure it is a challenge that we’re ever going to conquer, but as an organisation, hopefully working with the Department of Education and Health in the future, we have to say that this is an issue that we have a responsibility to address, primarily through education.
We need to demonstrate to these individuals the consequences of what they are doing.
The use of supplements is now part of exercise at both a professional and amateur level. If you go into any gym, people are often mixing some kind of shake.
We can’t stop people from taking supplements. We have to tell people that if you are going to, then you have to understand that there are some significant risks involved.
Our supplement campaign is about saying that it’s just not worth the risk. If you’ve accepted that you are willing to take that risk, then make sure that you minimise that risk by going to a source that is more reputable than others.
The risk of taking that supplement comes with no guarantees that there isn’t something in there that shouldn’t be in there. I think that’s the reality, until somebody, somewhere, decides this is an industry that needs to be regulated.