Economic and Social Research Council
Printable version

Video game teaches amateur athletes about 'fitness' drugs danger

Virtual reality is being used to educate young fitness and sports enthusiasts about the risks of taking performance-enhancing drugs (PED) such as anabolic steroids and testosterone.

Researchers have developed a first-of-its-kind video game that simulates the experience of being in a gym or sports club and making decisions related to drugs and fitness.

Sheffield Hallam University is part of the EU project called GAME (A serious Game Approach in Mitigating performance Enhancement culture in youth) which is being run by experts in behaviour and computing.

The video game and PED education project has been funded by the European Commission (Erasmus+ Sport) and will be the focus of an event as part of the annual ESRC's Festival of Social Science.

UK project lead Lambros Lazuras says the aim is to help young people better understand the risks of using drugs, learn how to identify risky situations and make appropriate decisions without resorting to scare tactics.

"Little is being done in schools or in the community to combat the rise in young people taking PEDs," says Dr Lazuras, assistant professor of social psychology at Sheffield Hallam.

"This project shows how gaming can convey a serious message to young people about the importance of staying clean. It's a timely educational tool that could be vital in protecting fitness and amateur sport enthusiasts from the harms of PEDs."

PEDs are an increasing problem in sport and fitness and can cause serious health problems including long-term heart damage. However, they are largely unregulated in amateur settings, unlike in competitive events.

Games have been successfully used to encourage learning in education and healthcare but not to promote drug-free sport until now.

GAME is aimed at 18 to 25-year-olds who do not necessarily compete and are therefore not monitored by sport governing bodies or anti-doping authorities. It targets those drawn towards PEDs including to increase muscle mass and improve body image.

Players lose points for making the wrong choice or progress to the next level by choosing 'safe' options such as resisting social pressures to take PEDs. Currently web-based, the game will also be available as an app on Android phones and possibly also on smartphones.

The game will be showcased as part of an event entitled Gaming for Clean Sport on 9 November for the general public. The event is part of the ESRC’s flagship annual Festival of Social Science.

Further information


  • Tamera Jones, Media and Communications Manager,, 0734 202 5443, 0117 905 7606
  • Polly Mosley, Sheffield Hallam University Senior News & PR Officer,, 0114 225 3224

Notes for Editors

  • Event: Gaming for Clean Sport
    Organiser: Lambros Lazuras
    Date: 9 November 2019 11:00 to 14:00
    Venue: The National Videogame Museum, Angel Street, Sheffield S3 8LN

More Information: please contact Polly Mosley

  1. GAME has been funded by the European Commission's Erasmus+ Sport programme for three years from 2017 and combines behavioural and computer science. Recreational and amateur sport organisations are involved from six European countries including the UK, Greece, Romania, Cyprus Lithuania and Ireland.
  2. The 17th annual Festival of Social Science takes place from 2-9 November 2019 with over 470 events nationwide. Run by the Economic and Social Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation, the festival provides an opportunity for the public to meet some of the country’s leading social scientists to discover, discuss and debate how research affects their lives. With a range of creative and engaging events going on across the UK, there’s something for everyone including businesses, charities, schools and government agencies. The full programme is available at: Catch up and join in on Twitter using #ESRCFestival.
  3. The ESRC is part of UK Research and Innovation, a new organisation that brings together the UK's seven research councils, Innovate UK and Research England to maximise the contribution of each council and create the best environment for research and innovation to flourish. The vision is to ensure the UK maintains its world-leading position in research and innovation.
  4. The ESRC is the UK’s largest funder of research on the social and economic questions facing us today. It supports the development and training of the UK’s future social scientists and also funds major studies that provide the infrastructure for research. ESRC-funded research informs policy-makers and practitioners and helps make businesses, voluntary bodies and other organisations more effective.
  5. UK Research and Innovation is a new body which works in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities, and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish. We aim to maximise the contribution of each of our component parts, working individually and collectively. We work with our many partners to benefit everyone through knowledge, talent and ideas.


Channel website:

Original article link:

Share this article

Latest News from
Economic and Social Research Council

Strategically Manage Public Services