Earlier this month, we attended the UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) Clean Sport Forum. As we approach the end of 2017, this was an opportune moment to reflect on the key issues surrounding doping in sport and to begin planning for 2018. Surrounded by industry experts and inspiring sports men and women, some clear themes emerged about the future of doping in sport.

We all know that doping in sport is a global issue, and a question that organisations around the world are trying to answer is why it happens. One poll, cited at the conference, made the startling suggestion that 25% of athletes would still partake in doping even if it meant that they would die by the age of 30. So why is this? There are no conclusive analytics to explain this, but the forum made it clear that finding the answer is high on the global agenda.

Topics of Conversation

A topic raised throughout the day was how to uncover corrupt behaviour. It was intriguing to hear that only 3% of intelligence on doping came from within the sports industry and that was mostly down to whistle-blowers. In her keynote speech, Dame Katherine Grainger DBE, Chair of UK Sport, emphasised the need for more education around the subject of doping within the sporting world; people need to understand what constitutes reason and how and where to go to report cases of doping and cheating.

Similarly, Goldie Sayers, 3-time Olympic medal winner, who also spoke at the event, supported this stance and expressed the need for education to be instilled at grassroots level. She cited the occasion where she witnessed and exposed doping within the Russian team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, highlighting the need for wider and more consistent testing outside of the top three competitors.

Another important issue that was discussed was the impact that doping has on other athletes. Dame Katherine Grainger told her story of anguish when beaten in the final leg of a British championships rowing competition by the Russian team. Her team settled for silver on the podium, until they found out the Russian victory involved doping and cheating and therefore received the gold five months later in a bittersweet turn. Grainger expressed the demoralising impact it had on her and the team and couldn’t help but feel as though the sport had been tarnished, showing the detrimental effect of doping in sport and the need for it to be abolished. A suggestion from Katherine was that tougher penalties need to be installed to deter sports men and women from getting involved with doping.

The future

Trevor Pearce, Chairman of UKAD, spoke about the organization’s three-pillar strategy for 2018. An annual assessment of doping in UK sport will be introduced, along with an updated and improved ‘National Anti-Doping Policy’. Additionally, UKAD have vouched to work more closely with forum members, as well as external organisations, such as police, border forces and governments. Pearce stated that he aims for a regime that checks on doping in sport that delivers “stability, confidence, credibility and underpins integrity with commercial requirements”.

Nicole Sapstead, CEO of UKAD, provided an informed insight into some of the steps that the World Anti-Doping Agency are taking, including their new self-assessment tool which will be integrated into anti-doping organisations around the world. This is a move towards tightening up corruption and has already proved effective within the UK, successfully addressing 6 points of improvement highlighted in their review.

We had a brilliant day and it was invaluable hearing first-hand insights and thoughts about the future of tackling doping in sport. Whilst it is clear that we are moving in the right direction, there is still much more to address. One thing that was apparent is how high anti-doping is on the global agenda. We’re certainly ready for 2018 and can’t wait to continue working towards creating a cleaner and better sporting world.