Clean Sport Week 2021: Spotlight on the University Sport Community
Since 2017 UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) have delivered ‘Clean Sport Week’, an awareness campaign in partnership with the UK sporting community. For 2021, the campaign takes place between 24th and 28th May and the Carnegie School of Sport at Leeds Beckett University is once again pleased to show its commitment to clean sport and support for this initiative.
This year, our support is being coordinated by BSc Science of Sport Performance student, Meagan Botha, with the help of members of the Protecting Sporting Integrity and Welfare (PROSPER) Research Group.
In this blog, Meagan provides an insight into what clean sport means to her, including how she was introduced to the topic through her experiences and studies.
Integrity. What does it mean? Well, it is defined as “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles”. In other words, doing the right thing when no-one is watching (Anonymous). Words associated with integrity are honesty, uprightness and honour. Acting with integrity is critical at all times, but we are shining a spotlight on it this week as we are supporting UKAD’s Clean Sport Week here are Leeds Beckett University. It’s therefore timely to consider and reflect on our own sporting stories, and ask ourselves what can we each do to keep sport free from doping and protect the wellbeing of athletes and support staff?
For me, sport is about strength, character, adventure and can be a vehicle used for good; like building up communities and providing opportunities. Sport has always been an integral part of my life - it was how I spent time with my Dad or kept myself busy. I still have fond memories of waking up at 3 or 4 am at the weekends to watch the South African rugby team play against the All Blacks or Australia Down Under, and I spent countless hours pretending to be an Olympic gymnast winning gold for her country (I was the commentator and judge too, so I always won gold – the joy of being an only child with a vivid imagination!) My love for sport, in particular triathlon, also prompted me to pursue my studies here in Leeds (that’s a blog for another day). When I complete my degree, it is my aspiration to become a performance lifestyle advisor or athlete well-being officer, working with young athletes and their coaches to support their well-being and empower them to make decisions that help them to compete with integrity.
Although I strongly believe that sport has many positives, there is also a ‘dark side’. The shadow cast includes issues like doping, bullying, and competition manipulation. My very first encounter with anti-doping was when I volunteered as a ‘Chaperone’ (notifying athletes that they have been selected for a blood or urine test) for the Triathlon World Series in Abu Dhabi in 2017 (I was supposed to be participating in the general event, but became injured, another story for another time!) But, it wasn’t until I embarked on writing my first ever academic report during my foundation year titled, ‘To dope or not to dope; an ethical dilemma’, that I really began to understand how complex and controversial an issue doping in sport is. What I learned during this piece of work was that doping behaviours can stem from the mindset or attitude that one needs to do whatever it takes to win (regardless of the consequences). Secondly, I learned that unintentional or inadvertent doping is another matter of concern, but athletes were not always equipped to navigate and avoid this risk. It is at this junction where nutrition and awareness play key roles. Lastly, I came to realise that the positives achieved in anti-doping/clean sport are not often highlighted or celebrated. Instead, the negative publicity outweighs the positive work done and it comes across in media that doping is pervasive in sport and that all athletes dope. I don’t believe that this is the case; many athletes who compete in sport do not dope and in fact advocate for clean sport. Unfortunately, their voices are often not heard or taken seriously.
I am using what I have learnt over the last 3 years and through completing the Clean Sport Advisor course to inform a programme of activities for the University sport community. With the help of the Protecting Sporting Integrity and Welfare (PROSPER) Research Group, I have recruited experts in nutrition and coaching to provide insights into how student-athletes can minimise their risk of doping through good nutrition and looking after their well-being. In addition, we have clean sport pledges from athletes that we will be sharing on social media, and we are honoured to be joined by Olympic Medallist and Author of The Long Win, Cath Bishop, to consider how we might redefine what winning means in order to be more successful (and protect clean sport).
I am incredibly proud to be involved in efforts to protect the integrity of sport and cultivate a landscape of clean sport, and it is my honour to ‘kick off’ Clean Sport Week at Leeds Beckett. Here’s the full programme: