Nicole Sapstead | Sport and Society

ec22Nicole is the CEO of UK Anti-Doping (ukad). Ukad is the national organisation dedicated to protecting a culture of clean sport, by clean they mean sport without performance enhancing drugs. 

Nicole’s job involves overseeing a team responsible for investigating doping cases that may have a criminal element to them or involve close cooperating with law enforcement agencies. She wants sport to be clean and helps to make sure athletes don’t dope and that those that support and train the athletes are not helping them to do so. She has read your posts about sport and society, find out what she had to say!


Dear Burnet News Club,

Thank you for all of your responses. It is fascinating to hear the opinions of young people on this subject.

For me, sport is about three things – talent, dedication and respect. Using drugs to improve performance goes against these.

The most important one, I feel, is respect. Athletes need to not only respect themselves and their bodies but also respect their opponents, the sport and the rules. It is important that all athletes compete on the same level and no one has an unfair advantage. Imagine you are an athlete and you put in lots of time and effort training and other athletes improve their performance by doping – how would that make you feel? Conversely, imagine a world where sports people can dope and your principles mean you don’t want to or you can’t afford to. How would that make you feel?

Looking through your comments, one of particular interest was the discussion relating to beetroot which seems to have divided some of you.

One of the important pieces of advice we always give athletes is to ensure they improve their performance by eating a healthy and balanced diet. Beetroot is a natural source of vitamins and some studies have shown that it can increase blood nitrate levels which can aid performance.

Using vegetables like beetroot, on its own and without anything added to it, would never be considered doping. Our job is to ensure athletes do not use manufactured or unnatural substances to improve their performance because this is cheating and this creates an unfair advantage over the opposition. Aside from the unfair advantage they give, many of these substances are harmful if not taken for a genuine medical condition. For example, the long term effects of steroids are not known – is that a risk worth taking? For some, it clearly is.

One of our roles is to educate athletes about the substances banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency. The list of drugs and methods that are banned in sport is called the Prohibited List. We work closely with the World Anti-Doping Agency on this list and every year, organisations like UK Anti-Doping, recommend substances and methods that we believe should be added to, or removed from it.

A fundamental part of our job is to protect the health of athletes by giving them lots of advice and information so they can make the right choices.

Finally, you may have seen on the news recently that the integrity of some sports is being questioned, whether it be due to doping scandals, corruption or match fixing cases, or a combination of these.

This is hugely saddening. Sport has the power to unite people from all around the world and it is enjoyed by hundreds of millions of people. Many of us pay to watch sport and therefore it’s vital that we believe the performances we watch, that they are because of natural talent, and not because athletes are breaking the rules to achieve success. Otherwise we, as the paying public are also being cheated. Nobody wants fans to stop watching or playing sport because they don’t trust what they are seeing. Almost every week an athlete is being cheated out of a medal, place on a team, contract, sponsorship deal for example because another athlete has doped and got away with it. We have a collective responsibility to speak out against those that chose to dope; everyone deserves the right to clean sport.

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