Athlete Heyes makes impassioned plea to clean up sport

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When it comes to understanding scientific research on anti-doping and the real-time effects in high performance sport, there are few people in the world with a greater pedigree than Andrew Heyes.

The former British 3000m indoor champion has now turned to the marathon, competing in his first in Manchester in early April.

A few days before that, Heyes will have his defense on a doctoral thesis which focuses on the psychosocial factors that facilitate doping in sport.

While not as outspoken as some clean sport advocates, few have worked more for the cause.

As a member of the UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) Athletes’ Commission, Heyes was able to play a leading role in helping to bring about change.

He explains: “From my perspective, I am on the UKAD Athletes’ Commission, I have my PhD in this area and I am very active in the Athletes’ Commission in my own sport. In athletics, I’m the chairman of the Athletes’ Commission, although I wouldn’t say I speak particularly well or am comfortable in a public environment, but I feel I have a responsibility to do what I can in the secondary channels and quieter aspects to bring about positive changes in the sport.

“I’m not someone who enjoys the limelight and would talk about it aggressively, but I do what I can. There are many reasons why I was brought down this path, in terms of from my own experience and the vicarious experience of good friends who have had to deal with this in their careers, of the doping behaviors of other athletes.

One athlete, in particular, had a major influence on Heyes’ anti-doping journey.

Hatti Archer was ten years her senior, but seeing her training up close, he understood just how talented the steeplechase runner was.

At the 2010 European Championships, Archer – who was Hatti Dean at the time – finished fourth in Barcelona, ​​just missing out on what would have been a historic podium finish for Great Britain in that event.

What followed showed Heyes just how devastating the effects of doping can be.

He said: “As soon as I joined the sport at 13 she was someone I looked up to, she trained every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

“She is ten years older than me, but I would see how hard she trained to get where she wanted to go. When she finished fourth at these European Championships, it was a massive, massive achievement.

“But she was behind three athletes who, before or since, have been banned for an anti-doping rule violation.

“I was 20 at the time, when I saw that it really touched me. She would have been European champion at a time when we had Mo Farah, Jess Ennis and Greg Rutherford.

“For an athlete to win a gold medal or any medal at the European Championships would have been a huge deal and a career changer for her.

“It changed the way she viewed her career. Seeing it basically taken away from him had a huge impact on me, it didn’t go over well.

“It was a question of integrity. It took me a few years to get involved in anti-doping research or something like that.

“I realized very quickly that it had an impact on people’s careers and lives. It basically ended her career because she came to training and tried to hit performance standards that weren’t really possible without improvement. So for me, even though it wasn’t personal, seeing someone very close in my training group going through it was pretty tough.

In an effort to improve intelligence in the fight against doping, UKAD launched its Protect Your Sport campaign in 2016, allowing those who have information about an athlete they know or suspect to have breached the rules Doping Control to share information anonymously through a variety of channels.

The first challenge of the campaign was to ensure that all athletes were aware of the avenues available to them, but Heyes admits there is also the question of what information the athletes deem worthy of passing on.

He explained: “First there is the email, the online form, a 24-hour private hotline and a WhatsApp number.

“So there are processes there and UKAD has undergone a complete rebranding from Report Doping in Sport to Protect Your Sport. UKAD is actively trying to do something.

“But in terms of the level or the bar that the athletes feel they have to achieve, it’s different for different people. It’s about a lot of things, not just sport.

“It comes down to where people’s moral lines lie.”

Heyes’ academic research focuses on these moral limits and the rationalization made by those who decide to cheat.

But he also realizes that one of the key areas in the fight against doping worldwide is through education, an area that has seen significant progress in recent years.

He added: “Anti-doping agencies are looking more to the social sciences and the impact of education. It’s something that NADOs (National Anti-Doping Organizations) and WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) are really pushing, and not just when it comes to testing.

“It’s an area where they are making progress, rather than just focusing on deterrence, but also prevention. It’s something I see more closely than others would.

Protecting clean sport depends on everyone in sport playing their part in maintaining a level playing field. If you suspect something is wrong, no matter how small, search for Protect Your Sport or email [email protected] Your identity will be kept 100% confidential throughout.

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