UKAD secures fitness industry commitment to new education programme

UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) and leaders of the UK’s fitness and gym industry have committed to a new education programme to protect gym users and highlight the risks of taking anabolic steroids and other dangerous image and performance enhancing drugs (IPEDs).

The statement comes after a new survey of UK gym users for UKAD’s Clean Sport Week (20 - 26 May), found that a third (34%*) of gym users said they were aware of other members of their gym taking IPEDs, while nearly a sixth (14%*) knew someone suffering from the side effects of IPED use.

Around 14% confirmed they had taken an IPED at some point, with a quarter of that number (27%*) currently still using.

The most well-known IPEDs are anabolic steroids such as testosterone, nandrolone and stanozolol, which are frequently injected**.

Regularly taking anabolic steroids can lead to physical and psychological changes in both men and women, as well as potentially dangerous medical conditions such as heart attack, stroke, liver and kidney failure, high blood pressure and blood clots.***

Anabolic steroids are class C drugs which can only be sold by pharmacists with a prescription. It is not illegal to have anabolic steroids for personal use.

UKAD Chief Executive Nicole Sapstead said, “We are delighted that the fitness and gym industry has reacted positively to these findings, and recognise the role they can play, in working with us, to keep people safe.

“Taking anabolic steroids and IPEDs without a prescription is dangerous and it is vital that both gym users and staff have access to a proper education programme to clarify the risks.

“It is important that this issue is discussed, which is why raising awareness about IPED use will be at the heart of our activity in Clean Sport Week this year.”

UKAD has partnered with ukactive, the not-for-profit health body, and professional body the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity (CIMSPA) to improve training and education in the industry in order to raise awareness of the dangers of IPEDs among consumers.

The bodies have agreed to work together to develop educational support, such as training and resources, for both the workforce and customers.

As part of the collaboration, the ukactive Research Institute conducted the online survey of consumers in May, and has also carried out focus groups with gym staff and personal trainers in order to get a better understanding of IPED use in gyms in the UK.

ukactive Acting CEO Huw Edwards said, “As the fitness industry has grown, the UK’s gyms have changed dramatically from the weights-room stereotype of yesteryear, now offering a cleaner and more welcoming environment for all. “However, these survey findings show how important it is that we shine a light on the dangers of IPED use in all corners of the fitness sector so that no one is unaware of the dangers to their body. “Working with UKAD and the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity, together we can improve education so that people know the risks and so staff are able to offer the best possible guidance and information on IPEDs.”

Phil Rumbelow, CEO of Jubilee Hall Trust, a gym operator that has welcomed the new partnership, said: “We care deeply about the health and wellbeing of our members, and we work hard to ensure that our staff are sufficiently trained and informed to answer any questions members may have. “It’s great to see ukactive and CIMSPA take the lead with UKAD on this important issue, and we want to play our part in raising awareness of IPEDs and showcasing how clean exercise is the best exercise.”

Last week UKAD and CIMSPA agreed a new partnership to promote clean sport across the industry, including accreditation for CIMSPA members.

CIMSPA CEO Tara Dillon said: “Our employer partners and members take this issue very seriously and we are looking forward to playing a key role in educating frontline fitness professionals on the importance of clean sporting environments.

“Studies like this create greater awareness of the challenges we face and CIMSPA expects our members to work in line with our code of conduct to help promote a drug-free environment in sport and physical activity.”

A small number of respondents (5%) in the survey reported that they had been advised to use IPEDs by personal trainers or gym staff.

While 41% of those who have ever used IPEDs reported suffering side effects, 24% of users said they would recommend them to other gym members, highlighting a lack of awareness around the dangers.

Nearly two thirds (60%) of gym users in the survey felt that personal trainers and staff at gyms and fitness centres have a responsibility to inform, advise or have information available about IPEDs.

One in seven people in the UK is a member of a gym and the UK fitness industry’s market value in the 12 months to March 2019 was just over £5 billion. ****

In addition to leading the fight for clean sport in the UK, UKAD is working with the fitness industry to introduce a Clean Gym Accreditation Scheme to combat threats to clean spaces in the gym environment.

Open Road is a drug and alcohol recovery support charity in Essex and Medway, which welcomed the new initiative. Their S.W.E.A.T. Project Outreach Officer, Adam Coombes, said: “Through our needle and syringe programme, we issue around 100,000 needles a year for IPED use which is a third of our total needle distribution. We’ve certainly seen an increase in the number of people contacting us in relation to IPED use since we launched our specialist service in 2017.”

“It’s so important that people are educated around the harms related to IPED use, whether their motivations are around body image or fitness gains, so it’s great to see UKAD and the fitness industry leading the way and filling this gap.”

Clean Sport Week runs from Mon 20th – Sunday 26th May 2019. For more information go to

* Survey Results: Polling of 361 online respondents carried out by UK Active Research Institute, May 2019

Additional information

** The National IPEDinfo Survey 2017
*** NHS
**** 2019 State of the UK Fitness Industry Report

Additional Statistics

  • The main motivations for people who used IPEDs were ‘to improve how your body looks’ (51%) and ‘to increase muscle growth’ (49%).
  • Asked how they obtained IPEDs for the first time, the most common source was through a friend or family member (39%) followed by online (25%), then at their gym (12%).
  • Asked how they first became aware of IPEDs, respondents stated that the most common way to gain initial awareness was through friends (35%).
  • The most popular sources of information for IPED users were online forums (61%) and academic articles (45%).
  • Two thirds of all respondents were unaware if their gym had a policy on IPED use.
  • In the five years from 2013 – 2018, 30.3 million doses of illegal anabolic steroids were seized in England and Wales by the police and Border Force (Source: Home Office)

About UKAD

UK Anti-Doping is responsible for ensuring sports bodies in the UK are compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code through implementation and management of the UK’s National Anti-Doping Policy.

UK Anti-Doping’s functions include an education and information programme, athlete testing across more than 40 Olympic, Paralympic and professional sports, intelligence management and exclusive results management authority for the determination of anti-doping rule violations.

For more information on what we do, please click here.

Incorporated by Royal Charter Charity registration number 1144545

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