Like many before him, WADA head John Fahey recognizes that steroid and doping use by elite athletes while commanding the headlines, represents a small fraction of the illegal trafficking of the drugs. The Age reports today that the WADA chief wants an effort on the ground to combat illicit steroid use.
WORLD Anti-Doping Authority chief John Fahey has called for sweeping research into performance-enhancing drug use in the Australian community and wants a public health campaign — similar to anti-smoking and binge-drinking efforts — to combat what he says is a growing problem.
"We have seen with things like smoking that … the more money you spend publicising the downside of smoking, the better your results are in getting people to give it up," he said.
Fahey was reacting to a spate of noted illegal imports of PEDs.
Mr Fahey's comments come as a senior customs official told The Age that the amount of performance-enhancing drugs being brought into the country had risen dramatically in the past five years and that the overwhelming majority was destined for community gyms and sporting clubs rather than elite athletes.
The WADA president has had talks with federal Sports Minister Kate Ellis to discuss an increase in government funding for research and education campigns. He has also met Professor Warwick Anderson, chief executive of the National Health and Medical Research Council, the Commonwealth body that allocates hundreds of millions of dollars each year for health-related research...
Mr Fahey said it was an important next step — a decade after the establishment of WADA — to take the fight against performance-enhancing drugs directly into the community.
"We really need to focus more generally and not just on elite (drug use)," he said. "Armed with better knowledge, we can make a better case for more attention and more funding to address the health of ordinary citizens who can suffer dreadful consequences of the problems they are creating for themselves."
Mr Fahey said governments were increasingly realising that abuse of steroids and other performance drugs was a serious public health issue and not just a problem for sports administrators
All true. However those eleite athletes continue to serve as role models for the teeming masses of consumers...
"In most cases it is more about getting a better body or looking good for the opposite sex or the same sex," he said. "It comes down to the suburbs, the gyms and the schools. People will see a way of getting a short-term benefit in a way that in public health terms can cause extreme damage."
Recent research in South Australia indicates that body image is as important a motivator for steroid use as sporting performance and that teenage boys and gay men are big risk groups. Such substances are now referred to as performance- and image-enhancing drugs (PIEDs).
Mr Fahey said athletes had to be competing at state or national levels before they were subject to drug testing. "We do miss out on the overwhelming majority of people who are taking these things," he said.
Will they be going door to door to survey doping in Sydney?