Methodical principles of anti-doping training in youth sports


Dr.Hab. A.G. Gretsov1
PhD, Associate Professor S.A. Vorobiev1
Scientific Research Institute of Physical Culture, St. Petersburg

Keywords: anti-doping education, junior athletes.

Background. Doping control issues are increasingly relevant both for the sport sector and other social domains as a growing priority is being given to them the world over. The potential solutions shall be designed to include not only restrictive and prohibitive policies and practices, but also preventive ones. The preventive domain of the anti-doping initiatives shall cultivate zero tolerance to doping in athletes and their teams with due emphasis on the fair play values and rules.

Under the State Contract for Research Project “Psychological education technology to cultivate zero tolerance to doping in junior athletes to contribute to the doping control projects in the national sports”, we made a problem analysis and came up with the practical anti-doping educational concept with a set of practical educational models based on the latter.

Objective of the study was to provide a theoretical basis for the practical integrated anti-doping junior educational models.

Methods and structure of the study. A top priority in any doping control and prevention initiative shall be given to the so- called mastery climate creation efforts. The mastery climate may be described as the motivational mindset centered on the sport mastery excelling mission and goals rather than competitive accomplishments at any cost; with the focus of the training efforts shifted from the visible benefits and manifestations of the competitive success to the internal and healthy personal progress in the training and competitive process. In any doping intolerance cultivation project focused on the youth population groups, the relevant issues shall be considered in the actual contexts i.e. factor in a variety of specific issues that may be irrelevant for the sports as such – with these issues dominated by the addictive behaviour and health values related problems [2]. It may be also beneficial to address the doping-related matters in wider contexts of the more general issues of why every society is governed by certain laws and regulations and why and how they must be observed.

Efficiency of the doping control and prevention programs depends on the following aspects: actually available input data; values-driven education; health implications; and ethical costs of doping and related problem [1]. Modern anti-doping educational programs are normally designed in the ‘motivations to actual knowledge and then to the personality-values- and motivations-driven learning’ logics. Every student must understand that the short-term benefits achievable by doping are very illusive as they are totally offset by the negative consequences in the long run for the life quality and health.

A good case in point is provided by the Athlete Learning Program about Health and Anti-Doping (ALPHA). The Program is designed to practically familiarize athletes with the actual doping-related situations to urge them take personal decisions on doping and cultivate zero tolerance in them [4].

The above-mentioned aspects underline the need for the priorities of the doping control and preventive educational process being shifted from the purely informational aspects to the personal values and motivations as designed and demonstrated in our studies.

Study results and discussion. The psychological educational technology to cultivate zero tolerance to doping in junior athletes was designed based on the following practical provisions:

1. Doping is interpreted as the gross violation of the fair play rules designed to secure equal opportunities for competitors as required by the modern sport values. That is how doping is considered by the modern anti-doping legislation; albeit in the common consciousness (including consciousness of some athletes) the relevant agents are often viewed only as the competitive performance and working capacity boosting substances. Our interpretation under the educational concept is: (1) wider than the latter; and (2) gives the means to shift the focus of the doping prevention education from unproductive discussions of the reasons for restrictions to the general logics of the doping control rules and why they are so reasonable, healthy and need to be observed.

2. Doping is interpreted as deliberate, motivated and harm-aware action. Athletes normally make resort to doping on a deliberate basis being fully aware of its negative effects. It should be underlined that such decisions are always deliberate as they are taken either by the athlete on his/her own or somebody from his/her close contacts. The decisions are always motivated by the need to boost competitive accomplishments, albeit it is not necessarily the only one explanation. Doping in this context may be described as the sort of sacrifice deliberately made for competitive success, with the athlete being fully aware of the risks and negative implications of such a sacrifice.

3. A special emphasis will be made on the positive individual values and motivations in the process to cultivate zero tolerance to doping, with the relevant issues being considered in a wider context of the attitudes to sports on the whole and personality development values of each athlete in particular. Fair doping related information shall be viewed as an important part of the doping prevention education, with the doping issues considered in the context of the healthy personality agendas and personality ethic dictated choices.

4. Doping in the modern sports shall be analyzed in the context of other relevant negative social phenomena, with the most evident parallels with addictive behaviour. Some of the forbidden agents are known to develop addictions; but even when they do not, the application of such agents or method is always excused by the need to attain some individually important goals. The educator may offer wider ideas of the need to comply with the fair sporting and social rules on the whole including the doping control rules and civil offence-prevention and control codes.

5. A special emphasis shall be made on the short-term illusive benefits of doping versus its long-term implications. It should be confessed that doping may in some cases facilitate the desirable competitive accomplishments albeit these immediate benefits are always overshadowed by the long-term negative implications that may be detrimental to the life quality and health. This is a choice between tactical and strategic life goals in fact. The long-term costs-versus-benefits analysis makes it possible to effectively design the line of the anti-doping argumentation in the educational process.

6. The anti-doping argumentation in the educational process may be supported by the personality ethic and psychology development theory by L. Kohlberg. The psychological development theory demonstrates that the individual perceptions of the social rules and reasons to observe them naturally evolve in a phased manner in the individual evolution process; with the researchers specifying the pre-conventional (driven by individual gains), conventional (interpreting social rules of behaviour as public treaty) and post-conventional (based on more general ethical criteria) development levels, with each of the levels classified into two sub-levels. The development phases are never divisible by clear borderlines albeit their succession is quite strict; with each development stage requiring a relevant array of arguments being applied to motivate the individual for observation of the rules.

7. The educational process shall be customized to (differentiated for) the target group, i.e. the consideration of the doping related issues shall be at least sport-, gender-, age- and mastery-level-specific, with the focuses and priorities in the educational process being shifted correspondingly. Different age groups vary in their perceptions of the same information, basic awareness of the doping related issues and their sport-career-related expectations and individual agendas. Therefore, it is unrealistic and impractical to design a wide range of educational programs very specific for each minor group. Instead we offer the base versions of the educational programs customizable to a variety of factors including: age (preschool, school, primary/ senior school and junior/ senior adolescent age); sporting status of the group (inactive or active competitors); and group expectations as to professional sport careers; with all other possible factors of influence covered by the customizable modules of the base programs.

8. The educational process shall be designed on the problem-specific basis with due priority to dialogues and personal-agenda-sensitive learning models. It should be acknowledged that (1) the anti-doping educational system design may be widely varied to cover a variety of viewpoints on different issues; (2) attempts to impose the ‘final truth’ on the youth audience are never successful enough as young people tend to oppose moralizing efforts and, hence, disapprove the educational material on the whole.

9. The educational process shall be designed with due contribution of the modern active psychological education elements including group discussions, psychological games, case analyses etc. to encourage students’ interest, boost motivations and add necessary emotional coloring to the learning process, with the relevant ethic-driven choice situations being modeled in the process.

Based on the above provisions, we designed a set of 8 anti-doping educational programs of at least 16 hours each customizable to different student groups, with the relevant practical educational materials for their implementation in the school curricula. Each of the programs includes a base module featuring the basic meanings and definitions of doping, its negative implications and doping control concepts as provided by the World Anti-doping Code Article 18; plus a few modules specific for the target student group.

The set of the anti-doping educational programs is available on the official website of the Ministry of Sports [3]. At this juncture, they have been successfully implemented by a number of national sport establishments. To facilitate the educational program implementation process, we offer a set of practical educational materials and recommendations on how zero tolerance to doping may be cultivated in junior athletes, doping awareness promotion graphical materials and ‘Tales about sports’ for children with doping-related materials.

Conclusion. The practical provisions for the anti-doping educational model offered by the study made it possible to develop a consistent set of anti-doping educational programs customizable to different student groups. A broad-based implementation of the proposed anti-doping educational programs will help cultivate zero tolerance to doping in junior athletes.


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The study was designed to formulate the methodological fundamentals that may be applied to design an anti-doping educational course for junior athletes geared to cultivate zero tolerance to doping, with the educational process driven by their values and motivations. Doping shall be interpreted as a gross violation of the fair play rules of the modern sports by the deliberate and motivated actions resulting in predictable harm, with the relevant problems being discussed within the frame of the general personality values. Doping may be associated with the asocial behavioural models and actions having long-term negative implications. The line of arguments in the educational concept shall be designed with account of the personality ethic and psychology development stages as provided by L. Kohlberg’s theory, with the course being duly customized to the target audience i.e. its age, sporting experience, sport mastery levels and expected professional careers in sports. The educational material shall be delivered on a problem-specific basis application of the relevant socio-psychological education elements. Based on the above provisions, we have designed and implemented a set of 8 anti-doping educational programs supported by the relevant methodological guidelines – including zero tolerance cultivation technology, process design recommendations, graphical teaching aids, and ‘Tales about sports’ for children.