Kathrin Weber from the Health and Life Sciences University (UMIT) in Hall, Austria has become part of the Carnegie School of Sport postgraduate research student community as she commenced her international PhD programme at Leeds Beckett University (LBU). Her global doctoral experience has been funded by the Austrian Science Funds (FWF) and it has enabled a collaboration between Kathrin’s supervisors - Dr Laurie Patterson (Carnegie School of Sport) and Dr Cornelia Blank (UMIT). Kathrin’s doctoral studies respond to an absence of evidence on doping in Paralympic sport.

Dr Blank commented “It was a great success for us to receive funding by the FWF for a doping-related project. It reinforces the importance of the topic not only in abled- but also in disabled sport, and raises this issue in the consciousness of wider society. Including the international cooperation with LBU significantly strengthened the proposal by adding highly qualified individuals to the research team and underlining the importance of international experiences during the career development of junior researchers. I know that Kathrin personally, as well as the project, is benefiting from being immersed in the research culture in the Carnegie School of Sport, under Dr Laurie Patterson’s supervision. I also believe that this project strengthens the international network in anti-doping research and specifically the future collaboration between LBU and UMIT – a fact that will also be of benefit for the future generation of fellow researchers.”

The project, which is planned over three years, begins with athlete and coach interviews in the UK and Austria. The results will inform the basis for a questionnaire regarding anti-doping perceptions and experiences of disabled athletes and their coaches. In the third phase of the project the research team will distribute this questionnaire to able-bodied athletes and coaches to enable them to explore similarities and differences between the two groups.

Speaking about her doctoral programme, Kathrin shares “I’m so passionate about doping-free sports and hope to be able to give the Paralympic community a voice through my work. It would be fantastic to work with them to improve the current anto-doping system.”

For the first part of the project, Kathrin has re-located from Austria to Leeds, in order to be mentored in the interview process – from design of the guide through data collection and analysis – by Dr Laurie Patterson. Between October and December, Kathrin searched for elite athletes and coaches who were willing to talk with her about their perceptions of doping in disability sports. In particular, Kathrin was interested in hearing about their views on the prevalence of doping in Paralympic sports, as well as possible reasons they think doping may or may not occur in this context.

Reflecting on her time in Leeds so far, she added “I’m very grateful for the opportunity to start over here at Leeds Beckett. Everyone is supportive and helps me to find the best way in my studies. Working together with experts like Dr Laurie Patterson and Professor Sue Backhouse is awesome and I can learn a lot from them”

Dr Patterson commented that she felt this joint PhD programme has been a great success so far, “This is the first time that I have been involved in supervising an international PhD student and I did not really know what to expect ahead of Kathrin’s arrival. However, we spent a considerable amount of time getting to know each other before she came over, including both Kathrin and Cornelia engaging in a short stay in Leeds”.

“It has been very enjoyable to have Kathrin with me at LBU, and I am looking forward to continuing our work together through the data analysis process and beyond. When she returns to Austria, we will keep in touch with regular Skype calls and I will be invited over to Austria when Kathrin engages in the public examination process at the end of the project. I look forward to having the opportunity to visit UMIT and further consolidate the collaboration between UMIT and LBU”.

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