Whose Job is it Anyway? A Qualitative Investigation into the Influence of Agents, Race Organisers, and Sponsors on the Risk of Doping in Elite Distance Running

Jake Shelley, Sam N. Thrower, Andrea Petroczi

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© 2022, Informa UK Limited. The attached document (embargoed until 03/07/2024) is an author produced version of a paper published in INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SPORT POLICY AND POLITICS uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. The final published version (version of record) is available online at the link. Some minor differences between this version and the final published version may remain. We suggest you refer to the final published version should you wish to cite from it.

Background: Agents, race-organisers, and sponsors have a key influence in shaping the world of elite professional distance running. Yet to date this important but hard-to-reach stakeholder group has been omitted from the global research landscape of doping and anti-doping. The purpose of this study is to address this gap in the literature and explore the systematic contributors to doping in elite long-distance running, along with potential solutions to this issue, from this influential perspective.

Methods: 13 in-depth interviews were conducted with agents (n = 8) of world-class long-distance runners, major race organisers (n = 3), and sports marketing managers (n = 2) for global brands. The interviews were conducted via the phone, audio-recorded, and transcribed verbatim.

Results: Reflexive thematic analysis generated three themes which focused on: 1) The framework of professional distance running and the contextual aspects which may contribute to doping risk; 2) the impact of various recruitment strategies on doping and anti-doping; and 3) the lessons that can be learnt from the participants’ first-hand experiences with doping cases and/or managing anti-doping requirements. Reflecting on the sector rather than the sample, the results highlighted that not all commercial stakeholders feel responsible for anti-doping.

Conclusion: Collective responsibility from all stakeholders, which is currently borne by some and not others, is necessary to minimise doping in distance running. The challenge is how to convince all stakeholders of their share of responsibility. Structural- and policy-level changes are needed to protect athletes and the sport.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Sport Policy and Politics
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jan 2023

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