Knoxville (WVLT) - There is disturbing news for parents of student athletes.
One in 100 11-year-olds admit using performance enhancing drugs to do better in sports, that's according to a study being published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
And 44% of children in the study say using these drugs, primarily stimulants, was the reason for winning.
A well-documented problem in professional sports is making its way to middle school.
Better. Faster. Stronger. And now younger.
The pressure to perform is now being felt at the middle school level, and so is the temptation to try whatever it takes to win.
"To hear that the percentage was that high, amongst children 11-years-old or younger,”Mike Maddux says his son, 14-year-old Colby, trains year-round to stay on top of his game, football and basketball.
He's aware of the pressure to win, but not this: 1.2% of 11-year-olds admitting to using a doping agent, including albuterol and corticosteroids, intended to treat asthma, and anabolic steroids, according to a BMJ study.
"It's much different than when I grew up. Kids are starting things at much younger age now,” Maddux says. "I know that my son is already getting training that I didn't get until I was in college."
Boys are more likely to take the drugs than girls. Training for more hours, low self-esteem and signs of anxiety are also linked to increased use.
D-1 sports trainer Corey Relillard says these young athletes are sacrificing their long-term health for perceived short-term benefits. "It's not worth ruining your life, so that you can be successful as a 12-year-old athlete."
In fact, four percent of users already reports health problems, including becoming violent, change to the voice and loss of consciousness.
Despite the well-known "roid rage," and other risks, Relillard says random testing for steroids may be the best deterrent. "I think it's going to be an eye opening experience, to be honest. That people are going to realize that it's a bigger deal than we think it is."
That the number of children caught using performance enhancing drugs through random testing may far exceed the number who admit to using them.
Tuesday, Florida Governor Charlie Crist signed a one year pilot program in which high school athletes participating in football, baseball and weightlifting will be subject to random testing for steroids.
The tests will be randomly administered to one percent of high school athletes next year, an athlete who refuses would be ineligible to remain on the team.
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