Prevalence of Performance-Enhancing Substance Use and Associated Factors Among Portuguese Gym/Fitness Users

Prevalence of Performance-Enhancing Substance Use and Associated Factors Among Portuguese Gym/Fitness Users / Ana Sofia R. Tavares, Sidónio Serpa, Luís Horta, Elisabete Carolino, António Rosado. - (Substance Use & Misue (2020) 18 February; p. 1-9).

  • PMID: 32068479.
  • DOI: 10.1080/10826084.2020.1726392


Nowadays, doping is not confined to elite sport, it is also spread throughout gymnasia and fitness centers, and it is seen as a public health concern. Studies focusing on performance-enhancing substances (PES) use among gym users are few and mostly concern the practice of bodybuilding and the use of anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS), without providing information about social indicators to further explore why this specific population use these substances.

To investigate the extent of PES use and examine the way social indicators, exercise profile and gym modalities influence the use of these substances among a sample of gym users.

Cross-sectional descriptive study, among a convenience sample of 453 Portuguese gym users, recruited directly by five institutional gyms´ email and Facebook. Data were collected via a structured web-based survey, between October and November 2017. Multiple binary logistic regression, the Chi-Square test or Monte Carlo Simulation or Fisher’s Exact test were used. The odds ratios and their respective 95% confidence intervals were calculated.

11,1% of gym users reported the use of prohibited PES, which varies significantly according to gender, education, exercise profile and type of practice. Gender was associated with the class of PES used. Polypharmacy was a common practice among users, increasing the risk of side-effects. Peer effect and media appear to be strikingly important in the misuse of PES.

Results provide precise insight into the specific factors associated with PES use, which could support prevention strategies in gym/fitness context.


Research / Study
18 February 2020
Carolino, Elisabete
Horta, Luís
Rosado, António
Serpa, Sidónio
Tavares, Ana Sofia R.
Other organisations
Centro Hospitalar Universitário de Lisboa Central (CHULC) - Central Lisbon University Hospital Centre
Escola Superior de Tecnologia da Saúde de Lisboa (ESTeSL) - Lisbon College of Health Technology
Lusophone University of Humanities and Technologies - Universidade Lusófona de Humanidades e Tecnologias
Universidade de Lisboa (ULisboa) - University of Lisbon
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Substance use research
Amateur / club / recreational sport
Gym/fitness environment
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26 February 2020
Date of last modification
23 January 2023
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