OPINION: Netball drug-testing protocols in the UK: How this can be done whilst maintaining the check’s in other popular sports

Most top-level sports and competitions are heavily regulated by drug-testing organisations. This, of course, is rightly so. We all want sports to be entertaining and the best that they can be, but what we also want is them to be competed in a fair manner. Drug testing is a vital part of this to provide a level playing field for every athlete. Unfortunately, it has been revealed recently that some sports and sporting competitions aren’t regulated as well as they maybe should be.

A BBC investigation recently discovered that the Vitality Netball Super League hasn’t had any drug-testing for five years. It isn’t the only top level women’s sport in the country to have this concern. Similar problems are thought to be the same in both the rugby union’s 15s league as well as rugby league’s Super League.

“We are all clean. If they wanted to bring in more drug testing in Superleague, go for it. It is an important part of the sport.”

Clair Maxwell of Strathclyde Sirens told BBC Sport

Ukad (UK Anti-Doping), who are the ones who are tasked with carrying out drug tests in UK sporting competitions, have since responded to the investigation saying that this is an issue that they are aware of and looking to changing the situation. They do, however, also indicate that it won’t be a simple fix. They only have a certain amount of time and resources and they claim that some drug-testing has simply not been possible.

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In their response they also acknowledged that one reason that this is something they are looking to address is that women’s sports participation and popularity are on the rise. The bigger a sport gets, the more attention it will inevitably receive and, although we may not like the idea of it, the increased competition could lead to people attempting to gain an unfair advantage in the search of success.

With this being the case, there must be a solution. I believe this solution to be the better sharing of resources. In the long run, and especially with cases such as this coming to light, the idea must be to increase available funding for operations like this to ensure that all of the top-level sports are fully regulated. However, I would say that the best course of action to take at the moment would be to share out the resources available more generously. There is lots of drug-testing at the high levels of football and rugby in the men’s games and, although this should continue, there is a huge imbalance in how a variety of sports are regulated.

In 2017 UKad revealed that over a third of men’s professional footballers were not drug tested. At the time this was seen as below par or unsatisfactory and it is believed that drug tests have since increased. Regardless, this figure doesn’t seem too bad when comparing to netball and women’s rugby’s drug testing numbers. Which are of course still at 0%. Obviously it is highly important to continue to regulate drug use in the most popular sport in the country, but if some of these resources aren’t shared to at least monitor other sports then there could be bigger problems when these sports become more prominent. Popularity of women’s sports is increasing so let’s make sure they are properly regulated and tested to prevent problems breaking out in the future.

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