BLOG: Education focus to protect athletes, sport

15 July 2019

There’s more pressure for people to be stronger, fitter, faster, and to push themselves harder than ever before, according to Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) CEO David Sharpe.

“This [pressure] can lead athletes to think about taking dangerous shortcuts – at any age and any level,” Sharpe says.

Education, he says, is the key to protecting the health of all athletes and maintaining the integrity of Australian sport.

“We at ASADA have made it our mission to engage athletes directly.”

In the past 12 months, ASADA has achieved this through the introduction of:

  • our Athlete Education Presenters, a group of elite athletes trained to deliver anti-doping education to their peers;
  • our Athlete Advisory Group, who help us to understand the pressures athletes’ face so we can tailor our messages, our education, and our future anti-doping strategies;
  • our Clean Sport App, designed as a one-stop shop for athletes to help them check if their supplements and medications are safe and to help keep athletes in sport;
  • our award-winning Virtual Reality, helping athletes explore the doping control process in a safe, non-intimidating environment;
  • expanding our e-learning platform, enabling us to reach tens of thousands of athletes and support personnel across Australia anywhere, anytime;
  • a new Ethical Decision Making Course, taking people through what is the “grey area” that athletes, coaches or support personnel might ponder as our ethics, values and the need to perform collide;
  • our Parents Guide to Clean Sport, targeting the very people athletes look up to the most – their parents;
  • our new educational video – CleanFreak – a fun video which has an important message to athletes on the importance of competing clean; and
  • our Integrity in Sport Teacher Professional Development Workshop, aimed at getting the clean fair sport message into the school curriculum.

Sharpe says education is one of the three key pillars of ASADA’s operations and is key to preventing doping.

“ASADA is a world-leader in using and developing new technologies in anti-doping education. We are forward thinking and innovative and will continue to strive to protect the health of all Australian athletes regardless of the level they’re playing at or what age they are.”

He says our education is aimed at elite, at people dreaming of being elite, but also at the recreational athlete who simply looks forward to their match on the weekend and the masters-level athlete who is still competing.

“Make no mistake, we are here to protect the health of all Australians,” he says. 

ASADA’s education offering also includes face-to-face education with sports and schools. These sessions are typically free of charge and are tailored dependent on the threats in sport, level of athletes and previous education exposure.

No session is the same, says Alexis Cooper, ASADA’s Director – Education and Innovation (A/g).

“Sessions are structured to be interactive and engaging, with multiple activities included,” she says. “Our education team works closely with sports to develop sessions which are tailored to the unique characteristics of each sport, and the doping threats most relevant to that audience.” 

Sessions cover topics such as the testing process, supplements, ASADA App, check your substances, health effects, whereabouts and international travel. In the past year, ASADA has doubled the number of sessions delivered around Australia, which range from local football clubs and high school classes, all the way up to elite Australian teams about to compete on the world stage.

She says ASADA also has outreach stands at major sporting events to promote awareness of anti-doping and the collaborative work being done to protect clean athletes competing within the sport. The number of outreach events in the past year has increased five-fold, and has ranged from community running festivals to international championships.

Palm Beach-Currumbin State High School teacher Shane Roberts, a teacher workshop attendee, says he was surprised at the amount of work ASADA is doing to get the clean sport message to athletes of all levels and ages.

“It’s impressive,” he says. “I never realised the work that has been going on behind the scenes at ASADA and how it can actually help us deliver that message.”