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Doping prevention: raising awareness, shaping policy and changing practice in EU 28

The Challenge

Anti-doping efforts have historically focused on the detection and deterrence of doping in elite sport. There is, however, a growing concern that doping is occurring outside the elite sporting system, giving rise to the belief that the misuse of doping agents in recreational sport has become a societal problem and a public health concern.

In August 2013, the European Commission, Directorate-General for Education and Culture, Youth and Sport Directorate, published a call for tenders for a study on doping prevention. This European Commission funded study provided an overview of the legislative and preventative situation in the 28 EU member states.

The Research

The Study on Doping Prevention (SoDP), carried out by a consortium of six international experts and a high-level review group of eight prominent scholars, was successfully concluded in December 2014. Following the publication, a new map of legal, regulatory and prevention practice provisions on doping for the member states was made available on the European Commission website.

The map describes and analyses existing approaches to doping prevention in relation to recreational sports, and shows how these findings differ from one EU member state to another. It also shows the legal, administrative and political agreements governing the fight against doping (including the status, role and autonomy of sports organisations and the presence or absence of anti-doping laws), and efforts currently undertaken to promote doping prevention in relation to recreational sports in each of them.

The Impact

The SoDP confirmed that legal frameworks and practices are severely different across the EU, in particular when it comes to criminal legislation. The study shows that, in order to develop prevention work in doping use in recreational sport, member states are missing information on prevalence of doping use on specific substances that are ingested (beyond anabolic steroids which clearly is not exhaustive of the doping products used by recreational athletes), and on the determinants of doping use in recreational sport. This means that until a more substantial evidence base is generated, the development of good practice must consider the application of the international standards on drug use prevention.

The findings of this research were shared at the Directorate-General Sport meeting in February 2015, which brought together 67 representatives from 27 countries and representatives of the Council of Europe. The recommendations of the SoDP were accepted by the Latvian Presidency of the European Union.