Paul Andrews, Team North West cycling coach at the Sainsbury’s 2015 School Games, discusses the importance of education for athlete support personnel (ASP) and young athletes with the Clean Sport Blog.
What have education sessions taught both you and your athletes about doping in sport?
100% me education sessions help inform athletes and athlete support personnel about the dos and don’ts of medication and generally how we can help to keep sport clean.
It’s about promoting the message of winning without drugs. It helps to counter poor publicity of drugs in particular sports and helps to inspire the next generation. Knowing how to compete, and win, clean is a vital component in the development of a young athlete at the start of their sporting career.
Do you feel you are now better equipped to support athletes in their career going forward?
Yes, as a coach and parent to young athletes I have a responsibility to be knowledgeable on anti-doping. With this knowledge I am able to help guide these athletes and answer any questions they may have to help them to make the right choices.
As athlete support personnel, athletes will come to me for advice on all different aspects of their performance so I look forward to them coming to me for guidance on anti-doping following their education session at the Games.
What part of anti-doping do you feel is most misunderstood? Has 100% me education helped to shed light on this area for both you and your athletes?
I think the part that is most misunderstood is whether prescribed medication is or isn’t prohibited. As doctors are prescribing it athletes can be unsure whether it is safe to take. It can also be quite hard to keep up with the prohibited substances especially if you are taking the medication for a long time, you might not think you need to keep checking it.
I think another general confusion is of athletes missing tests and the legalities. Not everyone is aware of how many tests you can miss, why athletes would miss a test, and what counts as a legitimate reason to have missed a test. Through 100% me education, I now feel as if I have a much tighter grasp on all of these areas.
Do you feel education has changed how you view your role in the fight against doping in sport?
When I was a young athlete I wouldn’t have thought twice about education and anti-doping or asking my coach about it. However, after having worked with young athletes in today’s sporting climate I have grown to understand the important role that we must play in reinforcing such vital messages.
I think it’s important to educate parents also, as at this point in the athlete’s life they are huge role models, and they need the knowledge to help advise their children. The key is to reinforce the message and raise awareness of doping in sport so that an athlete is able to prosper throughout their sporting career.
How important do you feel it is to start education at a young age?
It’s very important. I think it’s critical to educate a child when they are around 14/15 years old as they are approaching big events like these. Then they know what to expect when they start competing at larger, international events and have the essential anti-doping knowledge, especially if they are travelling abroad.
If you can educate athletes while they are still young then it becomes a part of their life and aids the development of them as both an athlete and as a young adult.