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.”