Clean Sport Collective: Abstinence-Only Education
20.11.2016

Clean Sport Collective: Anti-Steroid Crusaders Create Campaign Inspired by Virginity Pledges and Slut Shaming

The “Clean Sport Collective” has come up with a brand new approach to thwarting athletes from using anabolic steroids and performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). Actually, it’s not very novel or original at all. It appears to be inspired by Christian-based “abstinence-only” classes.

The husband-wife team of Shanna Sparks-Burnette and Kevin Burnette founded the Clean Sport Collective as an anti-doping initiative to promote the pursuit of “clean sport”. By clean sport, they mean sports whose participants do not use PEDs. All of those athletes who use steroids must necessarily be considered “dirty”.

The self-righteous morally-driven distinction between “clean” athletes and “dirty” athletes has long been the driving force behind most modern-day anti-doping movements. The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) regularly use those value-laden designations. So that is nothing new.

However, Clean Sport Collective has added a new twist that closely resembles the approach used by “purity” classes and “abstinence-only-until-marriage” programs. These religious anti-sex programs feature “virginity pledges” and tacitly encourage “slut shaming”. Clean Sport Collective’s anti-doping programs feature clean sport pledges and tacitly encourage the shaming of PED users.

“Let’s lift up clean athletes. Let’s bring awareness to the detrimental reach that one athlete choosing to dope can have on clean athletes, brands and support systems,” according to the Clean Sport Collective website. “Let’s change the rhetoric and celebrate the athletes, brands, events, teams and industry professionals doing it the right way.”

Clean Sport Collective advocates four steps for anti-doping crusaders to create awareness. First, they must choose a “clean sport charter pledge”. Secondly, they must sign it and submit to receive a Clean Sport badge. they And finally, they must promote Clean Sport with “selfies” on social media using the hashtag #cleansportco.

A popular way to do this is to brand themselves with a Clean Sport temporary tattoo purchased from the official Clean Sport Collective store. Or if they want to do it on the cheap, they can use a marker to draw the Clean Sport logo — for free.

Associated Press’ New England editor William Kole is a runner who described Clean Sport Collective as an initiative that uses a “bully pulpit” to inspire and shame competitive athletes into eschewing anabolic steroids and PEDs.

“[Clean Sport Initiative] launched this month with an aggressive campaign on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms,” wrote Kole in an article titled ‘Athletes using power of the selfie to clean sports of doping’. “Olympians and amateurs alike have been publicly pledging to live, train and compete “clean” — totally free of banned performance-enhancing drugs — and taking selfies aimed at both inspiring and shaming track-and-field competitors, swimmers, cyclists, triathletes and others.”

Maybe the founders of Clean Sport Collective think pledges and shaming will be just as effective for anti-doping as it has been for anti-sex education. But wait a minute – abstinence-only program have been widely criticized as being ineffective. The reliance on abstinence while withholding comprehensive approaches to sex education (including the discussion of contraceptives and “safe sex”) can place individuals at an increased risk of harm, e.g. pregnancy and sexually-transmissible infections.

It seems like a truly effective steroid education program would be oriented around harm reduction and focus on the health and well-being of the athletes. But it probably provides greater moral satisfaction to shame steroid users rather than to help them minimize any potential harm they may experience.

Regardless, Clean Sport Collective’s anti-doping pledges and shaming seem to be popular among many athletes. Some of the athletes who have taken the pledge and posted on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram include Lauren Fleshman, Jenny Simpson, Molly Huddle, Emma Coburn, Gwen Jorgensen, Kara Goucher, Alysia Montaño, Jeremy Powers, Nick Symmonds, Jesse Thomas, Phoebe Wright, Amy Cragg, Rob Krar, Sage Canaday, Stephanie Bruce, Sheila Reid, and Sara Hall. Some companies have even taken the pledge including Brooks, Nuun, Oiselle, Skechers, Run Gum, Altra and Picky Bars.

Several of the athletes and companies are clients of the marketing and public relations firm ModCraft which is owned by the founders of Clean Sport Collective. This is probably not coincidental but that is another story.

Clean Sport Collective pledge

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