Centre for Human Performance

Towards a vision for community-based prevention: Investigating feasibility of a Clean Sport Bystander Intervention - RE ACT

Addressing the need to empower the sporting community to speak up against wrongdoing, we developed and delivered a Clean Sport Bystander Intervention - ‘RE>ACT’ (which stands for ‘recognize’ and ‘take action’)

Towards a vision for community-based prevention: Investigating feasibility of a Clean Sport Bystander Intervention - RE ACT

the challenge

Athletes and athlete support personnel (ASP) assert that doping use warrants action, but many are reluctant to report it and are uncertain about the appropriateness of confronting those who are using prohibited and/or potentially health-harming substances. In response, we developed a bystander intervention to:

  1. Raise athletes’ and athlete support personnel (ASP) awareness to intervention-worthy substance use situations
  2.  Help athletes and ASP recognise their personal role and responsibility in such situations
  3. Equip athletes and ASP with the knowledge and skills to safely confront these situations

The Approach

RE>ACT employs the established situational model of bystander intervention (Latane & Darley, 1970) which outlines five decision-making steps towards intervention:

  1. Notice the event
  2. Interpret the event as a problem
  3. Assume personal responsibility
  4. Know how to help
  5. Implement the help – RE>ACT!

The first round of development and delivery comprised piloting the intervention, before implementation of the RE>ACT programme (2 x workshops, lasting 75 and 90 minutes) and a control condition with 568 student-athletes in the UK, Canada and US.

The second round of development and delivery involved streamlining the RE>ACT programme (1 x 120-min workshop) before implementing this with 204 student-athletes and 52 athlete support personnel in the UK, Canada and US. Alongside delivery of RE>ACT, the WADA-funded project included desk-based research to audit existing online anti-doping education interventions provided by national anti-doping organisations (NADOs) and international federations (IFs), as well as reviewing existing university level anti-doping courses and WADA’s Anti-Doping Textbook.

The Impact

RE>ACT has had a direct impact on student-athletes in the UK, US and Canada. Specifically, in the first round of delivery (IOC), both RE>ACT and the active control groups showed positive changes from baseline to post-intervention. However, the RE>ACT intervention produced more substantial – and sustained - positive changes in likelihood to address doping behaviour, perceived skills and confidence to confront substance use, and the belief that team-mates would intervene in intervention-worthy substance use situations, when compared to the control condition. Notably, data showed that relationships are significant in determining how individuals address banned substance use but RE>ACT helped mitigate the deterrent influence of this (potential) barrier.

Due to its initial success, RE>ACT received further funding from WADA. The programme has also been featured in various platforms, hosted by international stakeholders. Therefore, it has great potential to be taken-up across nations and sports when the second round of evaluation is complete, later in 2020.

Outputs and recognition

Erickson, K., Stanger, N., Patterson, L., & Backhouse, S. H. (2019). Substance use in university sport: A cross-national study of student-athlete substance use behaviours and perceived responses to witnessing substance use. Performance Enhancement and Health.


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