Chris Cook, double Commonwealth champion, British record holder, Commonwealth record holder, World medallist, European medallist and Olympic finalist, talks to the Clean Sport Blog about why anti-doping education is a vital factor in the development of young aspiring athletes.
Why is it important for athletes to learn about the anti-doping process at a young age?
“I think it is so important because it’s a huge part of sport now and it’s not going to go away. The younger that you get used to that fact the better.
“To be honest with you, it took me about three or four years as a young senior to get used to the anti-doping process. It was changing all the time and still evolving. Having a drugs test, getting all your forms in place, what you can and can’t take, and even just knowing all of the threats and dangers was a lot of information to digest.
“Attempting to deter young athletes from intentionally doping is only one side of the coin. Inadvertent doping is a serious problem. For example, as your career develops and you start travelling abroad, you need to be aware that consequences of medication or labelling changes can be career threatening.
“The younger that athletes start getting used to the entire process through clean sport education, the better.”
How effective are the 100% me workshops at educating athletes about clean sport?
“I think they are brilliant. They are a bit funky and cool and I think that’s exactly what you need. Once you get past the structure of drugs in sport and the controversial aspects associated with it, it can be a very difficult subject. UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) and the National Trainers have really brought it alive.
“When anti-doping education was first created, it just needed a foothold. Now that is has traction and momentum, young athletes are really buying into it. Not only are the young athletes knowledgeable on the subject in general, but they are using the correct terminology and are passionate about the subject, and that’s great.”
How do mock doping control workshops prepare young athletes for the doping procedures that they could face as an elite athlete?
“For me, it’s great to sit in a session and observe how the process has changed. I retired in 2008 and it’s changed a lot since then. I’m guessing it will continue to change a lot in the next five years as well.
“For the athletes it’s about keeping up to speed with those changes and taking on board the facts. Doping control can be a daunting experience, and the more prepared an athlete is, the more comfortable and accepting of the process they are likely to be.”
How important are anti-doping education sessions for athlete support personnel (ASP)?
“I think they are great because they (ASP) are then able to help deliver the key messages across the board.
“With the team managers knowing exactly what 100% me is here to do, it’s not just a workshop but part of the athlete experience. It’s just as important as arriving on time at your venue.
“A fair few years ago people would glance over it, but it is now seen as an integral factor in any athlete’s preparation.”
How does 100% me continue to support athletes throughout their career?
“When I was swimming simply having a place of reference that I could go to was so important. It was a great opportunity for me to pick up the phone, check the website or have that little bit of extra information. For example, what important information has changed? And why has it changed?
“Knowledge is power and you can use that to your influence. Athletes that aren’t well versed aren’t prepared. It’s as simple as that. They are running a risk and potentially gambling with not just their careers, but potentially their livelihoods as well.”
What do you enjoy about coming back to the School Games?
“Year on year we are getting smarter, the event is getting bigger and I think that at some point the world is going to turn its head and really be taken aback at what we are doing, if they haven’t already.
“The athlete mentor programme, 100% me and the athlete experience are all invaluable tools for athletes just starting out on their sporting journeys.
“Add to that the experience in general of competing at such a large event and it’s something I am very proud to be a part of. It’s my seventh year at the Games and to see it evolve has been fascinating.”