Drug abuse in commercial fitness-clubs

Por: A. Surmann, C. H. Peters e C. M. Mueller-platz.

Athens 2004: Pre-olympic Congress

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There is increasing knowledge that drug abuse is a rising issue in fitness sports, nevertheless precise data are still lacking to really estimate the problem with the goal to develop doping prevention strategies. All published European studies concerning drug abuse in fitness sports were performed mainly in the Nineties of the last Century in selected countries and unfortunately used different questionnaires [1-3].
In our European project we realized a limited survey involving four different countries: In Belgium, Germany, Italy and Portugal more than 13 000 fitness-clubs are existing [4].


Questionnaires after Boos were modified and 3 031 distributed within 84 fitness-clubs. While in Germany and Belgium the survey was supported by the respective fitness organizations, in Italy the distribution of the questionnaires was done by a previous studio owner. The Portuguese request was organized by two coaches, body-builder in earlier days.
We transferred the data of the returned questionnaires and analysed them by the DBMS „ms-access"


Data from this project are as follows:
1. The overall return rate was in the range of 27 % (n=820).
2. The abuse was in the range of 6% for the whole group (Germany: 900 distributed questionnaires, 11% return rate, 5% abuse; Belgium: 700 distributed questionnaires, 24% return rate, 3% abuse; Italy: 1350 distributed questionnaires, 35,3% return rate, 5% abuse; Portugal: 81 distributed questionnaires, 95,1% return rate, 20% abuse).
3. 23% of the abusers stated that they received their drugs from the physician, 25% from friends, only 6% via internet.
4. 424 people additionally answered questions concerning health side effects, 9,4% of them reported drug abuse: Frequently reported side effects were acne, hyperhidrosis, spontaneous erection as well as increased excitability.


Although differing abuse rates could be detected in the samples of the four countries the authors feel that the explanatory power of the results is still limited due to sample size and selection. Finally, we are now engaged to evaluate our data in regard to the significance of the socio-economical background. Furthermore, different country specific structures of the fitness scene (like quality of the education of the fitness-trainers, health orientation of the studios) must be considered when drawing conclusions.
The authors propose that in spite of using the same questionnaire in the four involved countries more data are needed to evaluate the abuse in fitness studios.


[1].Perry HM. et al. (1992). Br J of Sp Med, 26, 259 - 261
[2].Korkia P. & Stimson, GV. (1997). Int. J. Sports Med. 18 , 557 - 562
[3].Boos C. et al. (1998), Dt Ärztebl, 95, A-953-957
[4].Milton T, Swift M (eds.) The European Health and Fitness Industry Report 2002, Centaur communications, 50 Poland Street, London W1F 7AX,



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