As we get ready for the start of the 32nd (XXXII) Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan (July 23 – August 8) one of the major areas of focus will be ensuring athletes perform within the International Olympic Committee (IOC) rules and regulations.
This focus mandates that all athletes, coaches and medical advisors, and administrators be knowledgeable of the World Anti-Doping Agency [WADA] guidelines on doping- such as the use of stimulants, diuretics and anabolic steroids.
Athletes may use drugs for three purposes:
· As medication for illness
· Performance enhancement which provides an unfair advantage over other athletes
· Recreational purposes such as marijuana
The WADA Education Guidelines to Prevent Doping in Sport provides a framework for the development of anti-doping programmes where all athletes from the junior level upwards can be apprised about doping, its risks and consequences. The five features are:
a) Short-Term Goals - all goals must be SMART, that is, "Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely".
According to WADA, at the end of every programme:
· 100% of all top athletes should have been informed of their rights and responsibilities by the end of the activity session
b) Long-Term Goals- according to WADA, long-term goals provide benefits for both athletes and their support personnel. These include:
· All Athletes in the Registered Testing Pool (RTP) shall be knowledgeable of the Prohibited List, Doping Controls, health consequences of doping Use, Consequences of Anti-Doping Rule Violations and the rights and responsibilities of Athletes.
· All athlete support personnel must also be aware of the requirements of athletes.
c) Timeframe- the time timeframe for these education programmes will depend on institutional capacity as well as the availability of funding. Although funding may be an issue in the current economic climate, the lack of funding for anti-doping education programmes is inexcusable.
d) Target Groups- athletes, athlete support personnel, coaches, medical team and administrators of sports. In cases of junior athletes, it may be even wise to apprise parents, guardians and schools to recognise the importance of their role in preventing any possible doping incident.
e) Key Messages- the keys messages should become etched in the minds of all stakeholders. These are:
· Clean Sport;
· All Athletes need to be clean and stay clean
· Doping is using any substance or method on the Prohibited List
· Doping is against the spirit of sport
The WADA guidelines and the Prohibited List should be an integral part of the overall development of athletes from the junior level onwards. Such an approach along with requisite monitoring and evaluation minimizes the possibility of athletes running afoul of the WADA rules and regulations.
Additionally, it provides a preventative mechanism from incurring costly bans in terms of unwanted negative publicity and loss of revenue from endorsements and other financial arrangements.