Young teenagers down to the age of 14 appear now to be taking muscle-building steroids, with Anti Doping Danmark’s helpline receiving an increasing number of calls from young people who take the drugs.
“We have calls from a number of young boys, but equally worrying,we have many parents who call because they have noticed the danger signals – sudden muscle growth, changed behaviour or have found pills, ampoules and syringes. We are talking here about young men from the age of 14 and upwards,” says Dr. Jens Halkjær Kristensen, chief physician at Rigshospitalet and organiser of the helpline.
“It’s shocking that young people down to the age of 14-15 are using steroids,” says Health Minister Astrid Krag.
“Apart from increasing the punishment for serious doping crime and increasing inspections, we will be launching a campaign with Anti Doping Danmark to inform young people of the serious health risks involved in steroid abuse and other forms of doping,” Krag says in an e-mail.
Steroid abuse can result in liver, kidney, cardio-vascular, semen and potency problems and increase aggressive tendencies. In younger people, the drugs can also stunt growth.
In Frederikssund on the capital island Zealand, several boys between the ages of 15 and 17 have been suspected of pumping up their muscles using steroids.
“We have seen how these boys develop to be unnaturally large. In some cases they become unstable and aggressive,” says Frederikssund Ungdomsskole Deputy Head Jacob Jørgensen.
Anti Doping Danmark has tested the young men, but results have not yet been published. Politiken has surveyed five councils across the country, finding that all of them have encountered the same problems with boys experimenting with steroids before they are fully grown.
“The fact that the drugs are easy to get hold of is perhaps the main reason why it is becoming more common. Easier access to the training centre and internet environment has also meant that there is greater temptation with more young people becoming interested,” says Kristensen.
A 2009 survey of 5,500, 18 and 19-year-old Norwegians found that 2.6 per cent had taken doping drugs – predominantly steroids and testosterone.
Bjørn Barland of the Norwegian Police University College who prepared the report, and who is one of Europe’s leading researchers into steroid abuse, says that Denmark will generally have the same incidence as Norway.
“Many of these young men are not just building up their bodies, but also an identity. The modern body has become an important mirror of who you are and what you stand for. There is a lot more pressure on young people now than 10 years ago, so it’s obvious that more take steroids,” Barland says.
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Edited by Julian Isherwood