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Sporting activity and drug use: alcohol, cigarette and cannabis use among elite student athletes

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ABSTRACT Aims 

To study the relationship between sporting activity and alcohol, cigarette and cannabis use among adolescents and young adults, by focusing on elite student athletes (ESAs). Design, setting, subjects 

Cross-sectional survey ( Spring 2002), in a sample of 460 ESAs (ages 16–24 years) recruited at 40 public centres gathering the young sporting elite from 30 different sports in South-Eastern France, comparison with samples of the general population of adolescents in South-Eastern France. Measures 

Respondents were asked confidentially by a self-administered questionnaire about their use of licit and illicit drugs, their sporting activity and other aspects of their life-style. Findings 

Prevalences of cigarette, alcohol and cannabis use were markedly lower for ESAs than for other adolescents (generally twice or three times as low). Among ESAs, when compared with the practice of an individual sport, the practice of a team sport was correlated positively with alcohol use (OR = 2.7 for girls, OR = 1.8 for boys), and the practice of a sliding sport was correlated positively with cannabis use (for girls: OR = 2.3) and with alcohol use (for boys: 4.3). Girls who entered competition at international level were more prone to smoke cigarettes and cannabis (OR = 6.1 and 2.4, respectively). Conclusions 

As a whole, practising sports as an elite student-athlete can be considered as correlated negatively with cigarette, alcohol and cannabis use. Nevertheless, this relationship depends on the kind of sport practised as well as the level of competition, and further research is needed to understand specific elite athletes’ motives for use.
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Keywords: Drug use; elite student athletes; sport

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Regional and Departmental Authority on Youth and Sports of South-Eastern France (DRDJS PACA), Marseille, France and 2: Laboratory of Sociology of Sport, National Institute for Sport and Physical Education (INSEP), Paris, France

Publication date: 01 September 2003

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