Objective: To describe the prevalence of doping and its progression in a cohort of preadolescent athletes during a 4-year follow-up.
Design and settings: Prospective cohort study. Self-questionnaire survey.
Participants: All of the pupils entering the first year of secondary school (sixth grade) in the Vosges Département (east France) and followed for 4 years.
Main outcome measurements: Drug use (prohibited substances, tobacco, alcohol, cannabis), intention to use, reported health hazards, perceived drug effectiveness, self-esteem, trait anxiety.
Results: At the beginning of the study, 1.2% (95% CI 0.8 to 1.6) stated that they had taken doping agents at least once in the preceding 6 months, and this had risen to 3.0% (95% CI 2.3–3.7) 4 years later (p<0.001). Of those who had used doping agents, 4% reported that they had experienced a health problem related to doping, and 44% reported that they had won at least one sports event as a result of using the drug. Use of doping agents is linked to the number of hours of practice per week, intention to use, use of other drugs, self-esteem and trait anxiety.
Conclusions: The results show that doping does exist in preadolescent athletes who train every day. This fact should to be taken into account in preventive actions.
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Funding: This study results from the “Cohorte Myrtilles” (Bilberries cohort), financed by the French Ministry of Youth and Sports and by the regional health programme “Fight against drug dependence in the Lorraine region (France)”.
Competing interests: None.
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