UKAD warns against IPED use among Gen Z males looking to get a better body in 2020

UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) is warning against the use of Image and Performance Enhancing Drugs (IPED), for Gen Z and millennial males who are looking to transform their bodies this year, many of whom will already have given up on the healthier eating and new gym regimes they started at the beginning of the month. 

A new UKAD review on the status of IPEDs in the UK, is highlighting the public health issue caused by IPEDs such as anabolic steroids, which build muscle and help achieve the ‘ripped’ physique that is widely promoted as the ideal body on social media, and is the trademark look of many young men on television shows. 

UKAD believes those who feel dissatisfied with their bodies could be tempted to take short cuts to achieve their goals, particularly at this time of year when new year, new body transformations are being widely promoted across all media.  

UKAD’s status report on IPEDs in the UK has collated information from UKAD, academic, government, sports and consumer research, to identify the key issues and the knowledge gaps which must be addressed in order to tackle IPED use in Britain.    

According to the 2016 IPED Survey*, 56% of users took steroids for improving body image or cosmetic reasons and the most common demographic for steroid use was males aged 20 – 24. Other reasons reported for steroid use include non-competitive bodybuilding (45%) and enhancing sports performance (27%).  

UKAD Chief Executive Nicole Sapstead said: “Young men are being bombarded with imagery of the ideal sculpted body on social media and through high profile television programmes. 

“However, not everyone has the motivation or in fact the physiology to achieve this body type through exercise and healthy eating, and some of these individuals may feel that using IPEDs, and steroids in particular, is the only or fastest way to achieve their goal.  

This is why we are using the release of the UKAD status report on IPEDs in the UK to highlight what we believe is a public health issue that needs to be addressed now.”  

Research for UKAD’s Clean Sport Week 2019** found that a third (34%) of UK gym users surveyed said they were aware of other members of their gym taking IPEDs while nearly a sixth (14%) knew someone suffering from the effects of IPED use. 

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

While research into the area of IPEDs is improving, knowledge gaps still exist in a number of areas around the motivation of young people to take IPEDs. Further investigation is also needed to determine if the biggest drivers are image-based, as initial research suggests, or to improve sporting performance. 

Also, the unscrupulous, illegal and unregulated supply of IPEDs needs to be addressed. There are roughly five million doses of anabolic steroids seized per year at the UK border which are reported to UKAD through Boarder Force, but the online trade is more difficult to police. 

UKAD Chair Trevor Pearce said: “The increasing availability and ease of acquiring anabolic steroids via social media and the internet is extremely alarming. UKAD has recently spoken to several individuals who obtain anabolic steroids via Facebook or WhatsApp, while another recent report in the press revealed the worrying trade of anabolic steroids on Instagram.  

“This highlights the need for a greater multi-agency approach between government, anti-doping agencies, law enforcement, public health bodies, educational institutions, sports and social media companies, to look at the current landscape around the illicit trade in IPEDs, and ultimately increase action to tackle this problem.” 


*2016 National IPED Survey carried out by John Moores University 

**UKAD Clean Sport Week 2019 Survey Results: carried out by UK Active Research Institute, May 2019

See the full report attached below.