INHDR commentary - Patterson & Erickson

Two research students from the Doping in Sport research group at Leeds Metropolitan University reflect on their experience of this year’s INHDR conference.

Laurie Patterson – final year PhD student studying coaches and the quest for clean sport, with a focus on perceived relevance and role.

Attending my first INHDR conference was a great experience. I was impressed by the place, the presentations and, most importantly, the people. As it was my first time presenting my research findings I was nervous, but the supportive smiles and reassuring nods from the audience helped me remain calm. Even better, when the presentation was over the audience had some useful insights for me to consider. Hearing other people's thoughts about the conclusions that I have drawn was invaluable. Moreover, it was encouraging to find that the conclusions I am drawing through my research aligned with those that well-established researchers at the conference had also drawn.

I thoroughly enjoyed hearing the perspectives of well-respected researchers in the field. On the opening day, Professor John Hoberman highlighted that anti-doping education is not education in its current form and is in fact a ‘global political correctness’. Later in the afternoon, Professor Jay Coakley discussed ‘The Great Sport Myth’, cognitive dissonance and presentations of self, highlighting the concept of deviant over-conformity. On the second day, Professor Verner Moller raised the point that we must not be naive to the narratives that individuals choose to deliver to us. This point was also raised in the discussions that followed Dr Werner Pitsch's presentation about tacit premises and assumptions the previous day. This led to the audience (including me) asking if there pretenders in the anti-doping arena? For example, participants, policy-makers and other stakeholders. There have long been calls for greater transparency in doping-related matters, and I believe that a consensus across the delegates at the conference highlighted that this continues to be the case.

Over the two days several presenters talked about the dynamicity of doping – that it is ever changing and therefore that we must be ever changing with it. In this vein, and given that I have adopted a mixed methods approach to my own research, I enjoyed hearing Professor Andrea Petroczi, and others, emphasise the need to value both quantitative and qualitative research and embrace what each has to offer us. True to the conference theme, presentations led me to question what we really know about doping. Yet, I agreed with Professor Petroczi’s conclusion that knowing something is better than knowing nothing. My personal mantra is slow progress is better than no progress - and I think the same applies to the field of doping in sport. Again, as Professor Petroczi indicated, we may not be solving problems, but we are raising the right questions. Most importantly, the INHDR conference has given me confidence that the right people are out there searching for AN (if not THE) answer to those questions.

As I am nearing the end of my PhD journey, I wish I had been aware of the INHDR sooner. I would have enjoyed, and benefitted from, engaging with such supportive and innovative researchers during the research process. However, knowing about the INHDR now, and having met many of the network’s members as delegates of the conference, I am more certain than ever that I would like to continue working on research in the doping-related field. Moreover, I hope that the relationships I initiated at the conference will lead to collaborations with other members of the INHDR in the future.


Kelsey Erickson – first year PhD student exploring: ‘Risk and protective factors for doping in sport: A cross-national qualitative investigation’.

Coming in to the INDHR conference I was feeling apprehensive and under-qualified.  Who am I to present work amongst a field of well-established, world class scholars in the field of doping research? Despite this mind-set, I walked in to the conference on the first day and my instant reaction was comfort.  Rather than feeling judged or questioned, I was immediately embraced and encouraged. I was met at the door by a room of smiling faces and inviting conversations and I was instantly made to feel a part of a team rather than feeling like an outsider.

Like my colleague Laurie Patterson, the INDHR conference was my first experience presenting research.  Not only that, but it was the first conference I have ever attended.  I became aware of the INHDR group during my first few months of PhD research and instantly knew that I wanted to be a part of it.  A group of researchers spanning the globe and all focused on doping research; what could be better? 

When I stepped up for my presentation I was wracked with nerves, but as I glanced across the faces in the room that began to change.  I was talking to a group of people who were just as passionate, intrigued and curious about the doping phenomenon as I am; scholars who are genuinely interested in doping research and advancing the field. Why should I be scared?  As I concluded I was not only offered encouraging words, but also provided with invaluable suggestions, questions, and insights.  I cannot thank you enough.

Having now returned to my office and immersed myself in the literature once more, on multiple occasions I have recognized the names of authors and been able to put a face to it, and oftentimes a conversation as well.  Whereas a couple months ago I was unsure about emailing authors that I was intrigued by, now I find myself in the curious position of not only happily emailing them, but oftentimes being able to add a personal message because I have actually met them.   To be in the position to do that after only a few months of my PhD studies is fantastic.  Although I once felt like an outsider looking in, thanks to the INDHR conference, and more importantly the people attending it, I now feel endorsed to venture forward.  Through your kind words, willingness to share your knowledge, and just general encouragement I have been empowered to make a contribution to the field.

As I flip through the notes I took throughout the conference, I’m filled with excitement and eager anticipation. As Professor Andrea Petroczi mentioned, we may not be getting answers, but we are certainly raising important questions. Although answers tend to be more satisfying than questions, I find myself feeling intrigued by the unknown.  As a new researcher, I find it affirming to know that I have entered a research field with a seemingly limitless future.   Rather than starting my data collection with the goal of finding ‘answers’, I now want to approach it with intentions to raise awareness and offer insight.  If at the end of the project I have done nothing more than add to the questions that currently surround the doping field and offered  some potential  evidence-based answers to them, I will be happy with that. I am excited about the potential for future collaborations with many of you, and thankful that I was able to attend an excellent conference.

Well done and thank you to Ask, John and everyone involved for a great conference!