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How to RE>ACT When Doping is Close to Home

In sport, the person taking short cuts to get ahead isn’t always a stranger from a rival team who can be reduced to the label “cheater”. Sometimes, you might know the person as friend, teammate, sibling, or even mentor. When you know the person making poor choices – ones that threaten both their health and the integrity of sport – how do you react? Can you do something to help without jeopardizing your relationship and their wellbeing?


When Reporting Doping Gets Personal

This is the question being addressed by research led by Dr. Kelsey Erickson, a Research Fellow at Leeds Beckett University in the United Kingdom. Interviews with university track and field student athletes from the U.S. and the U.K. showed that athletes are more willing to report doping by someone they don’t know personally, but they are hesitant to blow the whistle when they encounter doping close to home.

In fact, the majority of athletes said that having a relationship to the person doping would likely prevent them from reporting the behavior through official channels, even though they are increasingly encouraged to do so. This hesitancy to report doping is also despite the fact that the majority of participants believe doping is “wrong” and are opposed to using performance enhancing substances personally.

Instead of whistleblowing, student athletes indicated that they would prefer to privately confront doping by someone they know personally. As Dr. Erickson explains, “During the course of the research it became apparent that addressing doping presents a true moral dilemma and is not as simple as athletes reporting doping or doing nothing.”

This is where the Clean Sport Bystander Intervention Program (RE>ACT – ‘recognize’ and ‘take action’) comes in.


How to RE>ACT When Doping is Close to Home

Based on student athletes’ responses, Dr. Erickson and a team of researchers based at Leeds Beckett designed RE>ACT to empower athletes to recognize intervention-worthy situations involving substance use. The program also aims to equip athletes with the skills and confidence necessary to effectively intervene.

As part of this community-based approach to deterrence, RE>ACT utilizes an established five-step decision-making model of bystander intervention and provides two interactive training sessions. In the first session, athletes learn about the theories and evidence underpinning the program, as well as concepts related to confrontation. A topic-specific session follows, which covers substances that are most relevant to university student athletes, such as dietary supplements, prescription medications, and recreational drugs.

During the interactive sessions, athletes have an opportunity to openly discuss and debate substance use in sport, gain and apply communication skills, and practice addressing hypothetical substance use situations. Employing this approach, the program works to engage the wider athlete population in discouraging and deterring substance use in sport. Moreover, the communication skills introduced and practiced during RE>ACT can be applied to other situations and issues.

The program is currently being delivered to universities in Canada, the U.S., and the U.K. For more information about RE>ACT, including how to get your university involved, visit the program website.

Follow the program on Twitter: @cleansportreact

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