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Research to explore use of performance enhancing substances in young rugby players

Leeds Metropolitan University and the Rugby Football Union (RFU) are to partner on a research project to explore the use of performance and image enhancing substances in male adolescent rugby union players.

The RFU has commissioned researchers from the Institute for Sport, Physical Activity and Leisure (ISPAL) at Leeds Metropolitan University and Kingston University for this work.

Scholarly research on the prevalence of performance and image enhancing substance use in sport is scant. Research is even less common in schools where most players are introduced to the game. Therefore, the RFU is leading the exploration of these issues among the most talented and committed young players in schools rugby.

Recent cases in South Africa and England, where young rugby players have tested positive for banned substances, underscore the importance of this research. In light of these cases, the RFU is now making a serious and sustained commitment to understanding any substance use by male adolescent rugby players. Little is known about the factors that influence players' decision-making and willingness to use these substances so this will be a key feature of the research. Through this programme, the RFU and the Leeds Met researchers share the aim of developing state-of-the-art evidence-based prevention programmes.

This research underlines that the RFU take their anti-doping responsibilities seriously. As Stephen Watkins, Anti-Doping and Illicit Drugs Programme Manager at the RFU, explains: "We are taking responsible steps to find out what the current practices are in the context of school rugby. This is a prudent approach and helps to drive our prevention agenda".

Lead investigator, Dr Susan Backhouse, welcomed this research partnership as it enables the research team to "undertake academically rigorous research which provides knowledge to the RFU that is useful, useable and used".

In brief, the three-year project will investigate the prevalence of dietary supplementation and doping amongst adolescent rugby players in England. Players' knowledge, perceptions, expectancies and willingness towards dietary supplements and doping will also be explored.

Other researchers involved in the project include Dr Lisa Whitaker, Professor Jim McKenna as well as Professor Andrea Petroczi from Kingston University.

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