Clean Sport Collective Hopes to Eliminate Steroid Use with Pledges and Shaming
A new non-profit anti-doping organization called the “Clean Sport Collective” has launched a new social media campaign aimed at combating the use of anabolic steroids and performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) in sports. “Clean Sport” wants to eliminate doping with the use of pledges and shaming.
In a page taken directly from the manual of the Christian abstinence-only sex education classes, Clean Sport is emphasizing the importance of “pledges” as integral to its anti-doping campaign. But instead of introducing “virginity pledges” for good girls and “slut shaming” for bad girls, Clean Sport is encouraging “clean sport pledges” for clean athletes and doper shaming for dirty athletes.
The Clean Sport Collective was founded by Shanna Sparks-Burnette and her husband Kevin Burnette. Sparks-Burnette identifies herself as a “Christian. Wife. Mom. Runner. Traveler. Health Food Nut. Agent for positive change.” on social media profiles such as Instagram.
"We really wanted to make a positive impact and change the narrative to celebrate the brands and all of the amazing and inspiring people who are doing it the right way," Sparks-Burnette said. "The mentality is 'win at all costs — do whatever you can do to get ahead.' As a society of people, we need to not do that to each other."
There has been no shortage of amateur and Olympic athletes willing to take the Clean Sport pledges and brand themselves with (temporary) tattoos exalting their purity in sports competition. Kara Goucher, Molly Huddle, Jenny Simpson, Emma Coburn, Alysia Montaño, Sage Canaday, Nick Symmonds, Lauren Fleshman, Andrew Wheating, Phoebe Wright, Amy Cragg and Rob Krar have all volunteered to participate in the program. They have taken the pledge. They have sported a temporary tattoo that looks like a broken infinity symbol or a sideways letter ‘S’ in selfies uploaded to social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
The Associated Press has described the use of the selfies as a tactic “aimed at both inspiring and shaming” other competitive athletes and corporate brands from a “bully pulpit” on social media. Sometimes the shaming tactics are subtle but at other times they are straightforward. For example, recently retired middle-distance runner Lauren Fleshman attempted to shame the Nike shoe and apparel company on Twitter into sponsoring the Clean Sports Collective.
“Can't wait until @Nike takes the #cleansportco sponsor pledge, freeing up millions of marketing dollars for future clean athletes. #JustDoIt,” Fleshman wrote.
The shaming incident is particularly noteworthy because Clean Sport would have rejected Nike even if they wanted to sponsor the initiative. The Clean Sport Collective charter prohibits participation from companies who sponsor any athletes who have ever been suspended for an anti-doping violation.
“We pledge to support clean sport by sponsoring athletes who are committed to training, racing, and living clean, and not sponsoring athletes who have tested positive for performance enhancing drugs,” reads the pledge for corporate brands.
Nike would be ineligible because it sponsors Justin Gatlin. Gatlin got caught using steroids over 10 years ago. After serving a length suspension, Gatlin returned to competition and excelled. And after over a decade of extensive drug testing, Gatlin has not failed a single drug test since 2006.
Unfortunately, there is no redemption for Gatlin from many anti-doping crusader who prefer to continue a campaign of shaming and ostracization. The Clean Sport Collective is among several anti-doping organizations who have criticized Nike’s decision to give Gatlin a second chance.
Clean Sport does have several corporate brands who it has permitted to take the pledge including Brooks, Oiselle, Nunn Hydration, Sketchers, Run Gum and Altra. Some corporate brands also happen to be clients of ModCraft, a marketing and public relations company that just happens to be owned by Sparks-Burnette and her husband Kevin Burnette. Two individual athletes who are promoting the Clean Sport Collective campaign – Kara Goucher and Lauren Fleshman – are direct clients of ModCraft. Goucher is also sponsored by both Modcraft clients Oiselle and Nunn.
The Clean Sport Collective campaign certainly provides a convenient value-added avenue to market ModCraft clients like Oisell, Nunn Hydration Goucher and Fleshman.
There are many approaches to PED education just like there are many approaches to sex education. But there is no reason to think that anti-doping education would be any more effective or desirable than anti-sex education. Education efforts work better when you eliminate the self-righteousness, the moral outrage and the shaming.
No one would ever advocate anti-math education or anti-science education. Its absurd to think that anti-doping education is the best approach. If the focus is on an evidence-based approach that emphasizes harm reduction above all else, then everyone benefits not just the morally self-righteous intent on shaming those who use PEDs.