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11 January 2017 | in Education

WADA Publishes Anti-Doping Research Project of Current Social Science Literature



LAUSANNE - Engaging university students is the perfect way to promote drug-free sport values to future sport leaders and professionals. The FISU-WADA partnership project, which strives to create a drug-free environment to protect athletes and youth, was part of the GUOC’s Legacy Programme for the 2015 Summer Universiade in Gwangju, Republic of Korea.

The development of an integrated e-textbook and teaching material to raise the social awareness of the fight against doping in sport among first year university students was one of the tools that resulted from this partnership. Educating future practitioners, athletes, coaches and all leaders of sport, on the dangers of doping in sport and their role in fighting doping in sport, is what this is all about, a strategy that has been confirmed by the findings from the WADA Research Project. You can read an overview of this project below.

WADA Anti-Doping Research Project

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is pleased to publish a Research Project, which it commissioned titled ‘Social psychology of doping in sport: a mixed studies narrative synthesis’. The Project was conducted by Professor Susan Backhouse and her research team at Leeds Beckett University in the United Kingdom (UK); and, follows on from a 2007 research project led by the same researcher.

“WADA is pleased to assert, as supported by this Research Project, that society’s understanding of the behaviour of doping and clean sport has grown considerably in the last decade,” said Rob Koehler, WADA Deputy Director General. “We now have a clearer picture of what are the most effective approaches to tackling doping, even though there is still a lack of research in the area of evaluation of education interventions,” Koehler continued. “WADA and its partner organisations are committed to devoting more human and financial resources towards values-based education in order to enhance the effectiveness of the global anti-doping program.”

Encouragingly, the Project shows that social science research in the area of anti-doping has exponentially increased since 2007, with an average of 27 peer reviewed papers being published every year. This growth in the body of knowledge greatly adds to our understanding of doping in sport.

The findings of the Project provide weight to what is already known. For example, research continues to reinforce the limitations of an anti-doping model that only focuses on detection-deterrence. Consequently, prevention of doping through education needs to be more prominent within the system and an integral part of all anti-doping efforts. This means a focus on teaching values, which strengthens athletes’ and their support personnel’s ethical decision-making ability throughout their sporting careers.

A failure to act to address the inherent limitations of current anti-doping policy and practice could further extend the legitimacy crisis where athletes and other stakeholders within the sport environment begin to question the merits of the testing system and the rules that govern them. If this is combined with a perception of a low detection rate, this can lead athletes to be more vulnerable and susceptible to doping or disenfranchisement.

The Project also highlights that athletes and athlete support personnel have received little by way of formal anti-doping education. This is particularly worrying with coaches and parents, as they are the primary sources of information for athletes and can easily lead them to inadvertent doping. The internet and media are also prominent sources of information for athletes, which highlights the need for anti-doping organizations to engage with these platforms to ensure correct and accurate messages are being communicated.

What the Project demonstrates most of all is that doping is a very complex behaviour that will not be solved by simple solutions. Professor Susan Backhouse emphasizes that “there is an urgent need to shift focus from individual athletes and the ‘fix the bad apple’ narrative to concurrently promote strategies addressing individual, social and environmental factors to prevent doping in sport. Adopting a systems perspective, the priority will be to foster collaboration across sport so that we address multiple levels of influence. Additionally, we cannot afford to ignore the culture of sport and the habitats that athletes occupy as they shape and define their behaviour. Therefore, we need to encourage multi-agency working to ensure that sport prioritizes athlete health and well-being.”

Although there has been an obvious growth in the research field over the Project period, many gaps and uncertainties remain. Specifically there is a need for:

  • Greater emphasis on program interventions and more understanding of their design, delivery and evaluation. This requires better partnerships between researchers and practitioners.

  • An international consensus on research priorities in anti-doping.

  • More longitudinal research with experimental designs, which requires more investment.

  • Greater collaboration across disciplines and countries.

For a full copy of the Research Project Report, please click on the following link;

(Source WADA)