carnegieXchange: School of Sport

Dr Helen Staff secures International Olympic Committee Support

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has awarded Leeds Beckett Post-Graduate Research Fellow, Dr Helen Staff, with an Early Career Academics Research Grant. Dr Staff will explore the barriers and enablers of parent clean sport behaviour to help inform the implementation of targeted and tailored parent-focused clean sport interventions globally.

Published on 21 May 2020

At the heart of the Olympic Movement is the drive to support athletes. Specifically, the Olympic Movement aims to protect the integrity of sport and clean athletes. However, doping continues to threaten these aims. As a result, efforts have been made to prevent doping. Yet, the focus has been primarily on the athletes themselves and or their coaches.

Athletes’ clean sport decisions and behaviours are not only shaped by competition and training environments. Parents are core protagonists in a child’s life and can influence their sporting values. Despite this, parents are not actively engaged to play an active role in their child’s sporting experience, including their clean sport education. With this in mind, Dr Staff’s work will focus on developing the global landscape of parent-focused clean sport education. Specifically, exploring parents’ clean sport behaviours and understanding system-level barriers which can influence the fidelity, sustainability, and wide-scale implementation of parent-focused clean sport interventions.

Dr Staff’s project will explore the experiences of parents, athletes, and coaches from several competitive athletics clubs across the UK. Beyond this, recognising that the international and national administration of anti-doping provision may imply variability in the way in which systems operate, Dr Staff will elevate the significance of this work, and consult with individuals from National Governing Bodies and National Anti-Doping Organisations, globally.

Through the research, individuals will be encouraged to share personal stories about their understanding of clean sport, their perceived roles, and the influence of interpersonal relationships on these roles. Elevating stakeholders’ experiences is a crucial first step in understanding parent clean sport behaviours, and encouraging sports organisations to make further efforts to empower parents to act in this space. Indeed, current policy dictates that parents have a role and responsibility to support clean sport (See WADA Code 2015). Yet, such policies are limited in their impact, when our knowledge of what parents do and why they do it is compromised. Thus, telling stakeholders stories will encourage a better understanding of the role parents play in the global pursuit of clean sport. Only then can we understand what interventions are appropriate to support the needs of parents.

Commenting on the award, Dr Staff, says, “I am delighted to have received a grant from the IOC to explore such an important stakeholder group, who are all too often left out when considering the sporting context. By bringing together the voices of parents and those more readily embedded in the sporting context, I hope my research will encourage sports organisations to equip parents to perform clean sport behaviours and, thus, protect clean athletes”.