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Keywords:

  • recreational drugs;
  • drinking;
  • performance;
  • smokeless tobacco;
  • non-athletes

The purpose was to examine cigarette smoking, use of snus, alcohol, and performance-enhancing illicit drugs among adolescent elite athletes and controls, and possible gender and sport group differences. First-year students at 16 Norwegian Elite Sport High Schools (n = 677) and two randomly selected high schools (controls, n = 421) were invited to participate. Totally, 602 athletes (89%) and 354 (84%) controls completed the questionnaire. More controls than athletes were smoking, using snus, and drinking alcohol. Competing in team sports was associated with use of snus [odds ratio = 2.8, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.6 to 4.7] and a similar percentage of male and female handball (22.2% vs 18.8%) and soccer players (15.7% vs 15.0%) reported using snus. For controls, not participating in organized sport was a predictor for smoking (odds ratio = 4.9, 95% CI 2.2 to 10.9). Female athletes were more prone to drink alcohol than males (46.3% vs 31.0%, P < 0.001). Only, 1.2% athletes and 2.8% controls reported use of performance-enhancing illicit drugs. In conclusion, use of legal drugs is less common among athletes, but this relationship depends on type of sport and competition level. The association between team sports and use of snus suggests that sport subcultures play a role.