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Minister’s warning on steroid abuse

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Rebecca Evans: ‘ The use of IPEDs is not just a problem in sport – it is a wider societal issue’

REBECCA EVANS, Minister for Social Services and Public Health, has spoken out about a culture of image and performance enhancing drug (IPED) misuse that is threatening to damage the health of a generation.

Addressing a symposium at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, which brought together key partners committed to tackling the issue, Rebecca Evans said IPED-use is a growing problem – particularly in areas of South Wales.

Many IPED users are young men seeking to enhance their body image, or to improve their performance while participating in sport.

Research in Wales shows that of those accessing programmes for sterile injecting equipment for IPED use, 36% reported having started using IPEDs within the past three years – indicating an increase in usage.

There are significant harms associated with such use, including heart disease and liver damage, as well as those related to mental health, including increased aggression and depression. There is also the risk of infection from injecting drugs.

Speaking ahead of the symposium, Rebecca Evans said: “ The use of IPEDs is not just a problem in sport – it is a wider societal issue. There are a worrying number of young people, especially men, purchasing and taking illicit substances for image reasons and some then participating in community sport.

“We must reverse this culture of IPED use if we are to protect a generation of young people from the serious side effects they can cause.

“That is why I am pleased so many key partners are attending today’s symposium. Working in strong partnership with third sector, health, local government and sporting agencies, we can build on the good work already underway and tackle this issue head on.”

Public Health Wales has carried out significant work to address the problem of IPEDs, including the development of the IPED website to provide information and harm reduction advice for those using or considering the use of IPEDs.

Josie Smith, Head of Substance Misuse for Public Health Wales, said: “Over the past 20 years, we have become aware of increasing numbers of people using IPEDs across a wide demographic. Changing culture and increasing emphasis on male physique, as well as availability of anabolic steroids, growth hormone and new peptides have led to substantial increases both in use but also potentially in perceived pressure to use these drugs.

“It is vital that we ensure three things: that people are well informed and can access accurate information; that no one feels pressure to use IPEDs in order to look a certain way or improve performance; and that anyone using or considering IPED use is able to access and engage with health and other services to address concerns and make informed choices.”

Sport Wales is taking a zero-tolerance approach to IPED misuse in sport. Brian Davies, Director of Elite Sport at Sport Wales, commented: “These are key issues for us because at the heart of sport is fair competition, where people know their responsibilities and compete clean from performance enhancing drugs.

“Education, targeted testing and sporting bans are all tools that have been used to ensure the integrity of sport.

“But it is important that we understand the challenges being faced in our communities and the pressures of modern society, and we can only do this in partnership.

“Now we can make another step forward and amplify the need for people across Wales to be aware of these issues.”

UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) is the UK’s national anti-doping organisation working across over 50 Olympic, Paralympic, Commonwealth and professional sports to deter and detect doping in sport. Nicole Sapstead, UKAD Chief Executive, said:

“UKAD continues to be concerned about the number of young people who are turning to steroids for performance or cosmetic enhancement.

“Not only is it a serious issue for sport but it is becoming a serious issue for our society and a generation of young people.

“Today’s symposium is a critical part in combatting IPED use in Wales and we welcome the opportunity to collaborate and discuss the issue with a number of partners in Wales.

“This is a positive step forward in combatting this worrying trend as the use of IPEDs does not fall to one particular agency or organisation to solve. We all play our part in safeguarding the health of our young people.”

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Wales v Scotland postponed

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WALES’ Six Nations match at home to Scotland on Saturday has been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The two other Six Nation fixtures had already been postponed and no date has been confirmed to complete the 2020 Championship.

The Welsh Rugby Union had insisted earlier on Friday the game would “go ahead as planned”.

A WRU statement read: “The Welsh Rugby Union has maintained an open dialogue with, and continued to seek advice and direction from, the National Assembly for Wales and other stakeholders, including the Six Nations, on this fast-moving issue.

“Whilst medical advice remains consistent, we have decided that it is in the best interests of supporters, players and staff to fall in line with recent measures taken across the UK and global sports industries.

“The WRU would like to thank all parties for their counsel on the subject and will make further announcements with respect to rescheduling the fixture in the coming days.

“Every effort has been made to stage this game and we appreciate that individuals will have been inconvenienced. Given the fluid and unprecedented nature of this issue a postponement became the only viable option.”

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Domestic football at all levels in Wales suspended

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THE FOOTBALL Association of Wales has today (13 March) taken the decision to suspend domestic football at all levels in Wales with immediate effect until April 4 due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The intention at this time will be to resume the football schedule depending on the medical advice and conditions from the relevant authorities at that time.

The FAW is fully aware of the impact this will have on the domestic game but the health and safety of all fans, players, volunteers and stakeholders are of paramount importance.

The FAW will continue to monitor this situation on a day-by-day basis and will continue to provide updates when appropriate.

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Exercise Referral Scheme doing more for health intervention than ever before

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A record 35,069 participants attended Exercise Referral classes during 2640 hours of health classes in 2019.

The National Exercise Referral Scheme (NERS) is an evidence-based health intervention scheme which incorporates physical activity and behavioural change techniques to support referred clients to make lifestyle changes to improve their health and well-being.

NERS Ceredigion has seen a dramatic increase in demand over the past year. A coordinator and four full time exercise professionals work to deliver the scheme, delivering 73 classes per week. The age of participants range from 16 years old, with the eldest participant in Ceredigion being 95.

Exercise class options include Gym, Circuit, Postural Stability (seated), Spin Bikes, Aqua Aerobics, Tai Chi and Pilates. Venues include council and community centres in Aberystwyth, Aberaeron, Lampeter, Tregaron, Cardigan and Llandysul.

Councillor Catrin Miles, Cabinet member with responsibility for Leisure, highlighted the benefits of the scheme, “There are many physical, psychological and social benefits to being part of the scheme, including confidence-building, better self-esteem, meeting new people and being generally fitter and healthier. Ceredigion Actif’s highly qualified Health Intervention Team provide opportunities to exercise that are fun, rewarding and that can be incorporated into everyday life.”

NERS Ceredigion targets people with a medical condition through various pathways including generic, cardiac rehabilitation, pulmonary, PSI falls, stroke rehabilitation, mental health, cancer and weight management. The 16 week tailored programme of exercise is delivered by a team of specialist Level 4 qualified exercise professionals who guide referred participants towards realising their individual goals.

A participant in Aberystwyth said, “This has been the best thing I have ever done. I have thrived from doing different activities and pushing myself out of my comfort zone which has not only helped my self-esteem but also my depression and everything else including my pain. I have also made new friends which I didn’t even consider would happen and we’re not only being social but we’re having fun too which is a bonus”.

There is ongoing monitoring from the instructors with follow up assessments at 16 weeks as well as on completion at 52 weeks. Long-term ‘maintenance’ options are available post 16 weeks which include the continuation of exercise classes as well as opportunities to join clubs such as walking basketball, walking football, golf sessions and walking rugby.

During 2018-2019 there were 913 referrals to the scheme. To gain access to the scheme, a person needs to be referred by a Health Professional, usually a GP, Practice Nurse or a condition specific Physiotherapist.

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