Although the Baltic nations of Latvia and Estonia are hardly among Europe’s largest countries, the athletics federations in the two are playing outsized roles in the promotion of European Athletics’ I Run Clean anti-doping education programme and providing leadership examples for other federations in the fight against doping in sport.
The two federations were among the first in Europe to make the completion of the eight I Run Clean e-learning modules mandatory for athletes at the national level, leading to significant increases in the number of users registered on the platform, and the Estonian Athletics Association (EKJL) is currently partnering with 10 other organisations working to develop the programme and take clean sport messages to new target audiences.
After making I Run Clean certification a condition for obtaining a new athlete’s license in 2018, the Latvian Athletic Association (LVS) extended the requirement so that from 2020 even existing license-holders in the U20 and senior categories needed to be certified in order to compete.
Since that decision, the number of Latvian users registered on the I Run Clean platform has grown to more than 1,700, which is at least 75% of the country’s approximately 2,200 licensed athletes and the highest uptake rate for any federation.
According to General Secretary Dmitrijs Milkevics, the LVS started its I Run Clean cooperation prior the programme’s official launch back in 2017 by working with the national anti-doping agency to translate the contents of the e-learning programme from English to Latvian.
“After several anti-doping rule violations in our sport, we decided to become more involved in educating athletes and coaches about clean sport and anti-doping rules and we saw a good opportunity to implement I Run Clean in our educational system,” he explained. “We believe the content is important in creating understanding of the rules and procedures as well as other information needed to be actively involved in the fight against doping in sport.”
Further north in Estonia, the EKJL made the completion of the I Run Clean e-learning programme mandatory for athletes taking part in national championships from the start of this year and has seen the number of users from the country registered on the platform jump from 188 to more than 630 in just three months, despite the limitations on the national competition programme due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
EKJL General Secretary Sirje Lippe, who is also working on ethical compliance education as a member of the World Athletics Governance Commission, was initially concerned that grassroots athletes might view implementation of the new requirement negatively and be difficult to persuade but says there have been no difficulties so far.
“I think our athletes see completing the programme as a part of a professional approach to their training and preparation. For us in the federation, I Run Clean is not a temporary campaign, it is an established part of the sport at every level,” said Lippe.
“Now we see a lot of our coaches registering to go through the e-learning programme because they are themselves interested and because they want to know what the athletes are learning,” she added.
As a partner in the I Run Clean development project, which is co-funded with a €324,000 grant from the European Commission’s Erasmus+ programme, the EKJL is helping to build on this interest through the creation of new e-learning modules and workshops for coaches and others in the athlete support network.
The federation is currently leading one of the project’s main work packages, which includes producing content and hosting 30 volunteers from six countries later this year in Tallinn for a training camp to prepare them to deliver the workshops when they return back home.
“We believe I Run Clean is already an excellent tool for working with athletes and we are happy to be an active partner in the project to disseminate it further and bring more people in our sport into this important conversation,” said Lippe.
The I Run Clean anti-doping education programme was launched in 2017 and certification is now a mandatory entry requirement for all athletes wishing to take part in future European Athletics championship events.
Available in 26 languages, I Run Clean is also open to grassroots athletes and anyone, young or old, who is interested in knowing more about clean sport.
To date more than 21,000 individuals across Europe have registered on the I Run Clean e-learning platform and nearly 16,800 have completed the programme and received I Run Clean diplomas.
For more information and to take part in the programme visit www.irunclean.org.
Throughout 2021 and 2022, 11 partners led by European Athletics and the Paris-based Agency for the Development of Athletics in Europe will be conducting a project to expand I Run Clean.
The project deliverables include new modules for the I Run Clean e-learning programme as well as local workshops for athletes, coaches, athlete support personnel and parents that will be led by trained ambassadors in Bulgaria, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.
For more information, please visit www.iruncleanproject.eu.