The Meaning of “Clean” in Anti-doping Education and Decision Making: Moving Toward Integrity and Conceptual Clarity

Andrea Petróczi*, Ian Boardley

*Corresponding author for this work

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With the World Anti-Doping Agency's International Standard for Education (ISE) coming into effect in 2021, the clean-sport movement is at a pivotal stage. Through this conceptual paper we juxtapose the sector-wide anti-doping education as set out in the ISE on the decision-making process at the individual level. We discuss three critical issues for the clean-sport movement. First, we make the case for doping being a “wicked” problem and outline the possible implications of this for prevention and detection. Second, we consider why we need to address regulative, normative, and cognitive components of clean sport if we are to maximize its legitimacy. Third, we critically expose the fluidity with which clean sport is defined, and the implications of defining clean sport in substance- vs. rule-based terms, which, respectively, lead to theorizing clean sport as “drug-free” vs. “cheating-free” sport. Finally, we consider the role and key components of anti-doping education and how the relevance of certain components may be dependent on the way clean sport is defined. Conceptualizing doping as a sport integrity issue, we move away from the archaic and delimiting view of clean sport as drug-free sport and conclude with recommendations on how to reconcile values-based education, awareness raising, information provision and anti-doping education within the broader scope of integrity, to support informed decision making and personal agency. To connect anti-doping education to individual-level decision making, we recommend a staggered approach in which specific education content is linked to different influences in the decision-making process, to different stages of athlete development, and to different educational goals. Emphasizing and encouraging sensemaking in anti-doping decision making offers a pragmatic approach for anti-doping education. Conceptual clarity and precise mapping of the educational goal, content, and delivery is vital for valid and meaningful evaluation of the effectiveness of anti-doping education.
Original languageEnglish
Article number869704
Number of pages14
JournalFrontiers in sports and active living
Publication statusPublished - 13 May 2022

Bibliographical note

The authors are grateful for constructive feedback and comments by Susan H. Backhouse on the early version of this paper.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2022 Petróczi and Boardley.


  • anti-doping
  • decision making
  • education
  • integrity
  • international standard
  • sense-making
  • spirit of sport
  • values based education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Anthropology
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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