Study reveals that coaches could be key to anti-doping
The study, reviewing the world's published literature regarding knowledge, attitudes and beliefs of coaches regarding doping in sport, hasshown an alarming lack of evidence.
Coaches play an influential role in an athlete's life but few studies have examined their doping-related knowledge, attitudes and beliefs. The review of published papers, by Dr Sue Backhouse and Professor Jim McKenna within the University's Carnegie Faculty, and published in the International Journal of Sports Science and Coaching this month, examined evidence published between 1990 and 2011, paving the way for further and more detailed study.
Dr Backhouse commented: "Athletes are typically the focus of anti-doping campaigns, however athlete-support personnel are also bound by anti-doping rules under the World Anti-Doping Agency Code (WADC). Our review has allowed us to identify future directions for this area of research including segmenting coaching populations according to sport, professional level and duration of relationship, examining their practice profiles and involving key stakeholders such as the people who organise sports and coaching development programmes."
Four academic papers were selected to study in detail, relating to a range of coaches' knowledge, attitudes and beliefs towards doping in sport in Norway, Italy, France and Hong Kong. This represented the entire world's literature that has looked into coaches and their drugs-related understanding in the last 20 years. Dr. Backhouse said: "We were surprised at how few studies had been completed and in so few countries. Yet, it also helps us to understand why so little is known about how coaches can be more influential in this important area."
Leeds Metropolitan student, Laurie Patterson, is now tackling this under-researched topic for her PhD, specifically focusing on anti-doping education for coaches.
The review found evidence that athletes are often responsive to an influential coach's authority, even when asked to perform objectionable acts. Overemphasising either winning or the potential benefits of victory were among the greatest motivators for cheating in sport. Six per cent of males within the studies could justify using performance enhancing drugs if the coach suggested it.
Although coaches generally support anti-doping movements, one study found that 19 per cent of coaches agreed that athletes should be able to use drugs to enhance performance if it does not hurt his or her health.
Dr Backhouse added: "With limited knowledge of the effects of doping and its governance by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), and a complete absence of evidence from the world's sporting powerhouse countries, like USA and China, it is difficult to plan targeted education for coaches. A systematic approach to education is therefore needed in future."