The extent of doping in amateur sport – revealed by a poll for the BBC – is a “concern”, says sports minister Tracey Crouch.
A BBC State of Sport investigation found more than a third (35%) of amateur sports people say they personally know someone who has doped.
Half said performance-enhancing substance use is “widespread” among those who play competitive sport.
Crouch said doping was “absolutely unacceptable in any level of sport”.
She added: “I think there is still more that sports governing bodies can do on this front, working alongside UK Anti-Doping, to help promote clean sport.”
The investigation into doping in UK amateur sport also found 8% of amateur sports people said they had taken steroids, while 49% thought performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) were “easily available” among people who play sports regularly.
Nicole Sapstead, chief executive of UK Anti-Doping (Ukad), the body responsible for protecting clean sport, had earlier described the figures as “incredibly alarming”.
She called for more resources to tackle doping, saying it was “fast becoming a crisis” at all levels of sport.
Crouch added: “These findings from the BBC are a concern.
“It is important that all involved in sport play their part in educating participants about the dangers of doping, both in terms of the damage it does to sport’s integrity but also the health risks to individuals as well.”
Would more testing help?
Ukad has an annual budget of about £7m, which is mainly state funding. A single drug test costs about £350.
Ukad directs the vast majority of its testing to elite sport and does not “have the resources” to test at lower levels of sport, says director of operations Pat Myhill.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the research was “robust” and added: “We see lots of young people, young men in particular, who choose to use these substances for image enhancement, but this creeps across into sport as many of them will be involved in amateur sport.
“I don’t think it’s helpful to criminalise amateur sports people whatsoever – the way forward is to tackle the supply of these substances and take action against those who profit and make criminal money by supplying them.”
Michele Verroken, who ran the UK’s anti-doping organisation between 1986 and 2004, said she was concerned the BBC Sport research could be “turned into a plea for more money” for anti-doping, arguing testing is “quite limited in its effectiveness”.
“Do we want to extend testing down to an amateur level so we could actually be dissuading people from getting involved in sport?” she said on the Victoria Derbyshire programme.
“It would be inappropriate in a society where we have an obesity crisis and a concern with lack of physical activity that we suddenly start testing at an amateur level.
“We don’t know at elite level how much is enough. We tested Lance Armstrong and Marion Jones extensively and never tested them positive. We need smarter testing.”
American cyclist Armstrong, 45, was stripped of his record seven Tour de France titles and banned from sport for life in August 2012 for what the United States Anti-Doping Agency described as “the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen”.
Compatriot Jones, 41, won gold in the 100m and 200m at the 2000 Olympics but was sentenced to six months in prison in January 2008 for lying about steroid use and involvement in a drugs fraud case.
Your stories – BBC Radio 5 live
Kieran, 30, took steroids for a two-month period when he was an amateur bodybuilder and boxer about 10 years ago.
He says it caused extra male breast growth and is now recovering after breast-reduction surgery two weeks ago.
“I was naive, uneducated, and these tablets were going around the gym,” he told BBC Radio 5 live’s Your Call programme.
“In all honesty it was a cheat and something to get ahead of the other guys in the gym. I looked around the gym and the other guys were getting ahead of me and I wondered why. Peer pressure was one of the reasons I took them.
“The side-effects have been everlasting. It destroyed my life.
“Because I was putting so much testosterone in my body, my own oestrogen counteracted with it. I couldn’t wear certain clothes because, even though I was still training, no matter what I did exercise-wise I could not get rid of these male breasts.
“I went through living hell – the psychological effects were worse than the physical effects.”
An amateur cyclist, who also called the programme, described injecting performance-enhancing drugs.
“I know from within my team it was quite common,” he said. “It was talked about quite openly. It was just the way it worked. It’s what was done.
“I was in a whole world of trying to be a better cyclist. All the choices I was making in my life were about trying to be faster. I would do anything to be faster.”
Should doping be legalised?
Professor Ellis Cashmore, sociologist at Aston University, told BBC Breakfast he thinks doping should be made legal as “we will never rid sport of it”.
“You can test over and over again and you can punish violators but you cannot actually control doping,” he said.
“Anything that confers a competitive advantage, athletes will take.
“That leads me to the logical conclusion that maybe we should accept it, that it is part and parcel of modern sport and somehow monitor it to try to regulate it, but not penalise athletes who do dope.”
Have you doped?
Have you ever taken a performance enhancing substance? Does your sport have a problem with doping? Get in touch using this link.