“Our work in gyms has only just begun”, UKAD Chair Trevor Pearce reflects on Clean Sport Week 2019

Speaking following UK Anti-Doping’s (UKAD) 2019 Clean Sport Week, UKAD Chair Trevor Pearce CBE QPM, shared his thoughts on the campaign.

“Whilst ‘Clean Sport’ is a daily mantra for everyone at UK Anti-Doping (UKAD), and all those who dedicate themselves to clean competition, Clean Sport Week is an opportunity to put a spotlight on the successes of the athletes who compete and train clean. The week also affords us the opportunity to start debate and announce initiatives we believe are best placed to address the most significant challenges to clean sport.

“Last week saw the third edition of Clean Sport Week, and UKAD has taken the opportunity of this year’s campaign to better understand the attitudes and prevalence of Image and Performance Enhancing Drugs (IPED) in the gym and fitness industry. Working closely with ukactive, an organisation whose members are some of the biggest players in the industry, UKAD released findings of an IPED survey with gym users and staff.

“The results of this survey revealed just how relevant it is for UKAD to adopt a position of responsibility within the fitness industry. It is staggering that a third of gym users are aware of IPED use in their gyms, with the motivation for use fuelled equally by aesthetics, and performance benefits. It seems much of the challenge is in filling an education gap in gym users - there is scant guidance and support for those who train in gyms. We must alter the perception of IPEDs, ensuring that the long-term risks of use are talked about and the risk of use is clear.

“This week sees the launch of the latest edition of ITV’s Love Island show- giving us one of the most stark, contemporary demonstrations of the pressures young people are exposed to around body image. In a body-conscious society influenced by what we see on TV, online and on social media, we find men and women alike aspiring to unrealistic goals without an awareness of the risks along the way.

“In anti-doping we have an expression, ‘doping doesn’t take place in a vacuum’. This is useful to ensure our education prevention programmes don’t just focus on the athlete themselves. Parents, coaches, physiotherapists and medical teams, all bear a share of that responsibility to clean sport. The same can be said for this initiative, which is why we are delighted to have partnered with CIMPSA (Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity). CIMSPA’s members cover a range of professions and responsibilities within this industry, including gym staff and Personal Trainers. It is vital these groups of individuals, who are looked to for guidance from gym users, are equipped with knowledge to best advise on the risks of IPED use.

“Our work in this area has only just begun, and it’s so important that those in a position to influence face up to the issues surrounding IPEDs and IPED use. We are calling on gyms and leisure facilities to take on this responsibility, to work with us as we develop an education programme to educate their members and provide sufficient resources for people to better understand what they are putting into their bodies, and how dangerous it can be.

“It was very interesting to read news this week from scientists at Sheffield University, and Brown University in the United States, on what they are calling an evolutionary paradox, “…where men damage their ability to have children during efforts to make themselves look more attractive”, through the use of steroids and other IPEDs. We are aware of the fertility-based side effects from IPED use, and this academic contribution further highlights the complex nature of the challenge at hand.

“Regardless of the theme, Clean Sport Week has provided a fantastic opportunity for sport to come together in celebration of clean sport. We are delighted that over 80 National Governing Bodies, teams and other sport organisations showed their support or contributed to the campaign in some way. We thank them for their support during this week and in all that we do.”