UKAD joins global project focused on the rehabilitation of athletes who have served their sanction

UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) is delighted to announce its involvement in a new research project aimed at better understanding the support and rehabilitation needed by athletes returning to the world of sport after serving a sanction. 

The project, called ‘Transforming Athletes’ Life Experiences after Doping into Education Resources and Policy Recommendations’, or TALE for short, will involve interviews with current or previously sanctioned athletes to understand their perspectives, emotions, and how their lives are affected by Anti-Doping Rule Violations (ADRVs). Focus groups with clean athletes exploring their concerns about the reintegration of sanctioned athletes into the sports community will also be conducted as part of the project. 

UKAD currently offers the opportunity to engage in a three-stage education programme to all sanctioned athletes which includes participation in an introductory phone call, 1-2-1 workshop and access to e-learning. The outcomes of this project will inform future support offered to sanctioned athletes returning to sport and improved experience-based education that can support their successful rehabilitation.  

UKAD’s Research and Innovation Lead, Dr Nikola Costa, commented: “Research that captures the perspective of sanctioned athletes and how their lives are impacted is scarce, but for a return to sporting life to be successful, or indeed a smooth retirement from sport, we must seek to understand the circumstances around an ADRV in order to provide the right support tools and educational resources. 

“Whilst it is our job to remove doping from sport, we recognise that after an athlete has accepted the consequences of an ADRV, we can help them to make the right decisions going forward as they transition into the next stage of their sporting careers. It is also vital to understand the perspective of clean athletes and the wider sporting community on the reintegration of sanctioned athletes so that we can provide education that cultivates a return to sport that is fair and inclusive.” 

UKAD is now encouraging athletes, currently or previously sanctioned, to share their personal experiences of receiving an ADRV. In addition, clean athletes that compete against sanctioned athletes or who have been directly impacted by another athlete’s doping are also encouraged to share their perspectives. The confidential interviews will be led by a trained athlete-researcher and participants’ identities will be anonymised.  

Ama Agbeze, former England netball international and Chair of the UKAD Athlete Commission, added: “It is great to hear that UKAD are getting involved in this project as the findings will be key in helping athletes’ transition back into the elite sporting community post sanction and to avoid falling foul of the rules again. There’s a lot to factor in when it comes to a sanctioned athlete returning to sport, it’s probably a very uncertain time for not just the athlete, but those around them. Not knowing how your peers, teammates and fans might react to your return must be difficult and I think providing those involved with the right education and support to navigate that will be vital in protecting the sport and those within it.” 

To find out more and to get involved, visit the TALE website. 

This international project is co-funded by the European Union’s ERASMUS+ Grant and WADA’s Social Science Research Grant programme. It is being conducted by a consortium of researchers including Prof. Cornelia Blank (UMIT Tirol), Daniela Lux MSc., Prof. Andrea Petroczi (Eötvös Loránd University, Kingston University), Dr. Daniel Westmattelmann (University of Münster), and representatives from several anti-doping organisations.