Does cricket have a problem doping? Specifically, with the use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs)? I would have said not, until I read this article from Andy Bull, in the Guardian from November 2017. And then, last week, another piece on doping in cricket, this time from Tim Wigmore in the Daily Telegraph (subscription item).
So it was quite timely that I attended the inaugural lecture of Professor James Skinner, recently appointed as the Director of the Institute for Sport Business at Loughborough University London.
Professor Skinner and his colleagues have carried out a number of research projects investigating perceptions of and attitudes towards doping in sport – public, athletes & coaches, dopers, young athletes.
And he has come to the conclusion that knowing why athletes dope is at least as important as knowing how when trying to devise appropriate counter-measures.
Skinner’s research showed that the perception of the public, and of athletes and coaches, was that the prevalence of PED usage was very much higher than the reported levels of positive test results.
Perhaps significantly, in a study with athletes who have committed doping violations, the perceived prevalence of drug use within their own sport was higher still.
From the study with the confirmed dopers, it became apparent that doping was being justified in several differing ways.
- By direct reference to enhanced performance (altogether ignoring the ethical challenge to doping).
- By attributing blame to someone else, such as a coach or doctor, who coerced or tricked the athlete to take a banned substance
- By placing responsibility on to other athletes – “everyone else was using PEDs, so why shouldn’t I?”
And Prof Skinner suggested that successful anti-doping intervention should perhaps include “ethical” training to address the moral disengagement apparent in these justifications.
Which is where coaches come in, especially in the development phases, by reinforcing the ethical foundations of sport and society, by rejecting win-at-any-cost attitudes, by reminding the players they work with that the game is meant to be just that – a game.