Negative backlash for reporting doping the biggest barrier for potential whistleblowers, study finds

Only 40 per cent of athletes and coaches said they felt their sport actively encouraged them to report doping

Doping control kit (Michele Limina/AFP via Getty Images)
(Image credit: AFP via Getty Images)

Being negatively labelled for reporting doping is the biggest barrier for potential whistleblowers to come forward, a new study by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has found.

Nearly a quarter of athletes and coaches interviewed said the possibility of being labelled a "snitch" for coming forward was their biggest concern, while the second most common barrier was that whistleblowing would damage their relationships in sport.

Around 40 per cent of athletes and coaches said they felt their sport actively encouraged them to report doping, while 88 per cent said they felt reporting doping was their responsibility. Less than half said they were aware of the WADA Whistleblower Program.

The WADA report, conducted by Leeds Beckett University, spoke to 400 athletes and coaches, with 22 per cent of interviewees coming from track and field and 12 per cent from cycling, amid a total of 54 sports that were represented.

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Dr Kelsey Erickson, the lead researcher at Leeds Beckett University, said: "Our goal is for reporting misconduct to become the expectation rather than the exception. When it becomes the expectation that you will be reported for misconduct, it is then that whistleblowing becomes a true deterrent."

For the first time in a study into doping and whistleblowing, emotion was taken into account, with around 45 per cent of respondents stating they would feel anxious if they reporting doping, and that their biggest motivation to do so would be because of concerns over athlete health as well as other athletes' career prospects.

A number of pro cyclists have raised concerns about the lack of anti-doping they've seen in recent months, as testing has been limited due to the coronavirus pandemic with WADA announcing in March that many programmes around the world had been suspended or reduced.

Thibaut Pinot told L’Equipe he had not been tested since October, saying: "That’s a long time ago and I hope that it will start up again because it’s not good news for riders who are trying to do things well.

"I hope that there will soon be controls again so that we can start up properly."

Jonny Long

Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races. I'm 6'0", 26 years old, have a strong hairline and have an adequate amount of savings for someone my age. I'm very single at the minute so if you know anyone, hit me up.


Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab, reporting about students evacuating their bowels on nightclub dancefloors and consecrating their love on lecture hall floors. I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).


I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.