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Maintaining a healthy body – Advice from an Olympic champion

Published: 12 Oct 2016 in Society news

Experts in how drugs work from the British Pharmacological Society have teamed up with Olympic Gold Medallist Tim Foster on a new animation about maintaining a healthy body without the use of illicit drugs. The 3-minute animation was launched on YouTube and social media today to help 10–14 year olds make safer decisions about performance and image enhancing drugs.
The animation came about after the British Pharmacological Society heard from members and other organisations about teenagers as young as 13 years old turning to performance and image enhancing drugs. This worrying trend among young people is due to growing pressure to look a certain way, which has spread beyond sport, through adverts, magazines, music videos, and social media like Instagram and Snapchat.
The facts: risk of performance and image enhancing drugs in children

  • Performance and image enhancing drugs are substances taken with the intention of enhancing sporting performance and/or to improve physical appearance
  • The illicit or illegal use of these drugs often has little to do with their original therapeutic uses from steroids and growth hormone to EPO, which treats patients with kidney disease
  • Children as young as 13 are among the rising number of people using performance and image enhancing drugs1
  • For some communities, drugs are increasingly seen as a required and/or acceptable route to achieving the ideal body type for young people (such as body building)2
  • 71% of childcare professionals believe children are becoming anxious about their bodies at a younger age3
Tim Foster won his gold medal at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney in the coxless four with Sir Steve Redgrave, Sir Matthew Pinsent and James Cracknell. He has since coached the British and Swiss international rowing teams. In addition to lending his voice to the new animation, he spoke out about the risks of performance and image enhancing drugs in February 2016 at a public event organised by the British Pharmacological Society as part of the Brighton Science Festival.
Tim says, “Some illegal drugs claim to offer shortcuts to the so-called ‘perfect body’. As I know from my own experience, the best way to stay active and fit is through hard work, a healthy diet and determination. I didn’t need illicit drugs or supplements to compete at the very top - even during recovery after major back surgery. And I certainly didn’t need any drugs or supplements to win Olympic Gold. This animation encourages young people to check with their doctor or pharmacist before they take anything new.”
Professor David Webb, President of the British Pharmacological Society, explains, “I’m grateful to Tim for sharing his first-hand experiences in this animation, which educates young people about staying on the right track when it comes to performance and image enhancing drugs, and should prove a valuable resource for parents and teachers starting conversations about this important issue.”
“Members of the British Pharmacological Society are leading the way in our understanding of how performance and image enhancing drugs are used illicitly by people of all ages - including reviewing evidence about children being at increased risk. They are also involved in improving drugs testing to detect athletes who aren’t competing fairly.”

 UK Anti-Doping Chief Executive Nicole Sapstead says, "UK Anti-Doping grows increasingly concerned about the use of performance and image enhancing drugs within young people - it is becoming a wider societal issue which no longer simply centres on trying to achieve sporting success. More and more young men and women are turning to substances such as steroids, human growth hormone and peptides to help them create the "perfect" body."

"There needs to be a collaborative approach to this problem and we are delighted to be supporting the British Pharmacological Society on this project. Prevention starts with values-based education and it is incredibly important that we reach out to young people to teach them the values of respect, integrity and honesty, to support them to make the right choices, not only in sport but in life.

"This video is a fantastic resource for 10 to 14 year olds and will work well alongside our education programmes, such as Get Set for the Spirit of Sport - a free values-based education programme for primary and secondary schools developed in partnership with the British Olympic Association and the British Paralympic Association. For more information visit"

Neal Patel, Royal Pharmaceutical Society says, “This animation highlights a raising and very worrying problem among young people, pressured into looking a certain way and turning to illicit drugs or supplements. People may obtain these medicines from unregulated or unverified websites suppling dangerous and unlicensed medicines that have serious health implications. People should always ask their pharmacist or GP before taking any new drugs or supplements”

The animation is available on
For further information:
Katharine Steer, British Pharmacological Society
020 7239 0184 or 07557 400 327
The British Pharmacological Society would like to thank representatives from the following organisations for providing information and advice in the development of this animation:
  • Rugby Football Union
  • Society for Endocrinology
  • UK Anti-Doping
  • YMCA
About the British Pharmacological Society
The British Pharmacological Society is a charity with a mission to promote and advance the whole spectrum of pharmacology. Founded in 1931, it is now a global community at the heart of pharmacology, with over 3,500 members from more than 60 countries worldwide.
The Society leads the way in the research and application of pharmacology around the world through peer-reviewed journals, educational resources and scientific meetings – as well as public engagement and outreach activities that explain the importance of pharmacology in the modern world.

1. Sky News. 2015. Investigation: One Million Britons May Use Steroids Regularly. Available online: Last accessed: 13 September 2016.

2. Skårberg K, Nyberg F and Engström I. The development of multiple drug use among anabolic-androgenic steroid users: six subjective case reports. Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy 2008; 3: 24.

3. Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years. 2016. Children as young as 3 unhappy with their bodies. Available online: Last accessed: 13 September 2016.