March 6 - A Scottish study has found how coaches can play an important role in influencing athletes towards or against the use of doping products.
The study, following a similar survey last year which found Scottish athletes are less likely to be tempted to take drugs if they are part of a team, calls for Governing Bodies to embed anti-doping policies to ensure Scotland maintains its clean reputation.
Undertaken by coaching and anti-doping experts at the University of Stirling, the study was commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and relied on interviews with Scottish performance coaches.
It found the country's excellent anti-doping record is heavily linked to coaches' anti-doping attitudes, but also suggested the role of coaches role is not being maximised as much as it should be.
It recommended engaging athletes and coaches in anti-doping conversations and experiences and integrating anti-doping information into wider topics, such as optimising performance preparation and recovery.
Dr Justine Allen, Lecturer in sports coaching and lead author of the study, described how they found a "strong stance from Scottish coaches towards anti-doping and their ethos is based on athletes achieving success through hard work and not through taking any shortcuts".
She added: "In that respect, the foundations are there, but many coaches said they lacked knowledge around anti-doping and for some it was a low priority due to the established anti-doping culture in the UK and few incidents in their sport.
"There are very good examples of anti-doping best practice and integrated programmes in some Governing Bodies, but this tends to be in sports with a history of doping issues internationally when it should be across the board.
"There is a need to establish clear roles and responsibilities within each Governing Body in relation to anti-doping.
"It might be the responsibility of the coach, an anti-doping officer or the physio; it's up to the Governing Body to determine the best fit for them, but the crucial thing is that they define the responsibilities clearly as it should be an around the clock role.
"If it is clear where the responsibility lies, it becomes a priority for them and they are more likely to ask themselves if they know enough and seek out available education.
"I don't think the coaches can be absolved of responsibility towards anti-doping and all of the coaches we interviewed agreed with that, but while the public might think it should be the coaches' responsibility, the coaches we spoke to were clear they don't have full control over what the athletes do."
WADA President Sir Craig Reedie described how "this study has been insightful in highlighting the importance of anti-doping policies, and the role coaches and the athlete entourage may play in influencing athletes".
"While the study offers just a snapshot from one country, it certainly validates the view that WADA has towards athlete support personnel and the fact that those who surround the athlete, including coaches, can strongly influence an athlete's decision-making," he added.
"This influence is an area that has been reflected by WADA in the revised World Anti-Doping Code, which will take effect from January 1 next year.
"The results of this study show that education of athletes and their support personnel is a crucial part of any anti-doping programme.
"At WADA, we provide many resources aimed at providing anti-doping information to athletes, coaches and other stakeholders such as teachers and physicians so that those involved can make the right decisions."
The full report can be read here.
October 2013: Athletes less likely to dope if they are part of a team, claims Scottish study