Frequency of using doping substances in Finland

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Frequency of using doping substances in Finland

For a long time, the frequency of doping substances outside the realm of highly-competitive sports has been based on sophisticated guessing. Survey studies carried out between 1993 and 2010 were targeted to certain special groups. Thus, their results were mainly trend-setting.  The first unpublished survey [1] was conducted in 1993 among servicemen.  Among those who answered, 1.5 % reported that they use or have used anabolic steroids.

In 2000,  a Health 2000 survey was conducted involving 18 to 29 year-old Finnish people (n = 1894) questioning the use of  anabolic hormones. Of those who answered, 1.2% stated to have sometimes used anabolic hormones other than for medical purposes [2]. Based on those two aforementioned surveys, it was noticeable that the majority of users were almost exclusively men. 

Later studies [e.g. 3] have shown that they are used between 18 and 40 years of age. Thus, the aforementioned, and many of the later surveys, have focused on the most active user group, which partly explains the results exceeding one per cent. In 1996, Taimi Korte etc. [4] discovered that doping substances are used more frequently among prison populations than those in the above-mentioned studies.

After the turn of the century, a series of surveys concerning specific cultural groups were carried out. In a survey of Finnish Student Health Services [5], less than one percent of the 3153 people questioned had ever used doping substances. In 2008, in an equivalent study [6], one percent of men reported having used a doping substances and 0.2% of women.

Ville Mattila etc. [7] examined the use of anabolic steroids among young people aged between 12 and 18 years-old between 1991 and 2005. A study carried out using the data of an Adolescent Health and Lifestyle survey showed that 0.3 % of the target group had tried anabolic steroids. According to a servicemen survey published in 2010 [8], 0.9 % of those questioned had ever tried anabolic steroids. Comprehensive data (n = 10 396) was collected between 2001 and 2007.

The scarcity of doping questions is a shared feature of the studies. In general, people have only been questioned in regards to the use of anabolic steroids [e.g.  2, 7] or, more generally, "doping" use [5, 6].

Two surveys were carried out in connection with the study made by Mikko Salasuo and Mikko Piispa. [3]. These surveys enabled the study of doping use frequency in a more precise manner than before. In the annually-published Youth Barometer 2009 (Nuorisobarometri 2009) [9], young people between 15 and 29 years of age (n = 1900) were questioned regarding doping use. A wider range of doping-related questions were included in the 2010 drug survey by the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), targeting the whole population (n = 4200) [10].

Out of the 1,900 people who answered to the Youth Barometer, only eight reported having tried or used doping, which means less than half a percent.  Five of them were men and likewise five at least 25 years old. Only one person who answered reported having used doping during the past 12 months.

In THL’s survey, doping substances included in the questionnaire were testosterone, anabolic steroids, growth hormones, clenbuterol and ephedrine.  One percent of people who answered the survey reported having used one of the aforementioned sometime in their lives. Only a few individuals of those questioned reported having used doping during the last 12 months. Similar figures have been recently obtained in Sweden. [11].

All surveys carried out in the 2000s indicated the low number of users. Based on THL's survey, in correlation to the population, between 30,000 and 40,000 people would have tried or used doping substances but the active users are not numerous – between 5,000 and 10,000.

Mikko Salasuo
D.Soc.Sc., Docent, Senior Researcher,
Youth Research Network

[1] Seppälä (2012): Anabolisten aineiden väärinkäyttö. http://www.antidoping.fi/view.cfm?page=2C4C2739-807B-496C-9C1C-BB59AA0E1F9F (Viitattu 7.2.2012).

[2] Pirkola & Seppälä (2005): Huumausaineiden ja anabolisten hormonien käyttö. Teoksessa Koskinen, Kestilä, Martelin & Aromaa (toim.) Nuorten aikuisten terveys. Terveys 2000 -tutkimuksen perustulokset 18–29-vuotiaiden terveydestä ja siihen liittyvistä tekijöistä. Helsinki: Kansanterveyslaitos, julkaisuja B7/2005, 65–70.

[3] Salasuo & Piispa (2012): Kuntodoping – näkökulmia dopingaineiden käyttöön huippu-urheilun ulkopuolella. Helsinki. Nuorisotutkimusverkosto, Tiede-julkaisusarja.

[4] Korte, Pykäläinen, Lillsunde & Seppälä (1996): Huumausaineita ja rauhoittavia lääkkeitä käytetään runsaasti vankiloissa. Kansanterveys-lehti 10/1996, 9–10.

[5] Kunttu & Huttunen (2004): Yliopisto-opiskelijoiden terveystutkimus 2004. Helsinki: YTHS, tutkimuksia 40.

[6] Kunttu & Huttunen (2008): Korkeakouluopiskelijoiden terveystutkimus 2008. Helsinki: Ylioppilaiden terveydenhoitosäätiön tutkimuksia 45.

[7] Mattila, Parkkari,  Laakso, Pihlajamäki & Rimpelä (2009): Use of dietary supplements and anabolic-androgenic steroids among Finnish adolescents in 1991–2005. European Journal of Public Health 20:3, 306–311.

[8] Mattila, Jormanainen, Rimpelä, Sahi & Pihlajamäki (2010) Anabolic-androgenic steroid use among young Finnish males. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science 20:2, 330.

[9] Myllyniemi (2009) Aika vapaalla. Nuorten vapaa-aikatutkimus 2009. Nuorisotutkimusverkosto/Nuorisotutkimusseura, julkaisuja 92.

[10] Hakkarainen, Metso & Salasuo (2011): Hamppuikäpolvi, sekakäyttö ja doping. Vuoden 2010 huumekyselyn tuloksia. Yhteiskuntapolitiikka 76:4, 397–412.

[11] Statens folkhälsoinstitut (2011): Dopning Kunskapsunderlag för Folkhälsopolitisk rapport 2010. Stockholm: Statens folkhälsoinstitut, R 2011:18. 

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