Page content

Common Sense Approach to Drug Use In Sport

8 December 2011

An internationally renowned expert on drug use in sport will consider whether anti-doping policies are sensible or a knee-jerk reaction, during a talk at the University of Ulster this evening.

Professor Ivan Waddington’s lecture, Anti-doping policy: common sense or moral panic? is timely given that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) recently announced a two-year review of its Code, which defines all key aspects of the world-wide fight against doping in sport.

The retired Director of the Centre for Research into Sport and Society at Leicester University says this is an appropriate time to reconsider some key aspects of anti-doping policy and to revisit some of the fundamental assumptions on which policy is based.

“The central theme of my talk is to ask whether anti-doping policy represents a reasonable and considered response to the problems presented by drug use in sport or whether anti-doping policy is underpinned by a highly emotive reaction which has many of the characteristics of a moral panic,” said Professor Waddington.

“It is worth noting that drugs have been used by sports people to enhance performance for some 2000 years but it has only been since the late 1960s that their use has been banned.

“For the greater part of sporting history, therefore, drugs have been used without any suggestion that those who were using drugs were cheating or doing anything improper.

“Our punitive attitudes towards drug use are therefore very recent and were not shared by those who developed modern sport. This prompts the question: how do we explain the development of this specifically modern approach to drug use in sport?

“What is it about the structure of modern sport and, perhaps more importantly, about the structure of the wider society of which sport is a part, which has been associated with the development of anti-doping policy in sport? And what light does this shed on the issue of whether modern anti-doping policy is common sense or moral panic?”

Dr Katie Liston, lecturer in Social Sciences of Sport at the University of Ulster, said: "Given the many questions raised by social scientists within Ulster's Sport and Exercise Sciences Institute about the role of sport in promoting particular values, Professor Waddington's talk is a very timely contribution to the work of SESRI, not least because of the high level of detachment demonstrated in his scientific analyses of the paradox in anti-doping debates.”

The Sport and Exercise Sciences Research Institute at the University, in association with Sport Northern Ireland are hosting the guest lecture at the Jordan town campus at 6.30pm.

Professor Waddington, who is a Visiting Professor at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, Oslo and University of Chester, has published four books and more than twenty scientific papers on drugs in sport and provided expert testimony to an EU enquiry.

His most recent book, co-written with Andy Smith, was, ‘An Introduction to Drugs in Sport: Addicted to Winning?’ He has on two occasions carried out surveys on drug use in English football with the support of the Professional Footballers Association and has also published important research on the management of injuries in English professional football, again with the cooperation of the PFA.