A career as an elite-class male athlete seems to improve metabolic heath in later life and is also associated with longer life expectancy. Telomere length is a biomarker of biological cellular ageing and could thus predict morbidity and mortality. The main aim of this study was to assess the association between vigorous elite-class physical activity during young adulthood on later life leukocyte telomere length (LTL). The study participants consist of former male Finnish elite athletes (n = 392) and their age-matched controls (n = 207). Relative telomere length was determined from peripheral blood leukocytes by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction. Volume of leisure-time physical activity (LTPA) was self-reported and expressed in metabolic equivalent hours. No significant difference in mean age-adjusted LTL in late life (p = 0.845) was observed when comparing former male elite athletes and their age-matched controls. Current volume of LTPA had no marked influence on mean age-adjusted LTL (p for trend 0.788). LTL was inversely associated with age (p = 0.004).Our study findings suggest that a former elite athlete career is not associated with LTL later in life. Key pointsA career as an elite-class athlete is associated with improved metabolic health in late life and is associated with longer life expectancy.A career as an elite-class athlete during young adulthood was not associated with leukocyte telomere length in later life.Current volume of leisure-time physical activity did not influence telomere length in later life.