To mark Clean Sport Week, UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) hosted a webinar on preparing for a Major Games. Here, Mike Naylor – Head of Performance Nutrition at the English Institute of Sport (EIS) – reflects on his experience of sitting on the panel.
The theme for this year’s Clean Sport Week, an annual awareness campaign run by UKAD, was ‘What you see is 100% me’, and that was the starting point for a webinar which took place on Tuesday 24th May.
The panel featured UKAD Chief Executive Jane Rumble, British Paralympic powerlifter and UKAD Athlete Commission member Ali Jawad and Olympic pole vaulter Holly Bradshaw, as well as the EIS’s very own Mike Naylor, who said: “It was an excellent panel with great diversity and I think that allowed many great experiences to be discussed.
“The thing for me was the passion from the athletes, Ali and Holly, in promoting clean sport, and their commitment to doing that was really inspirational.
“I think it they provided really good examples of just how prepared they are with everything around anti-doping and clean sport, and their preparation in the lead-up to major competitions – there were great stories to listen to.”
Asked what Clean Sport Week means to him, Naylor – who has worked with the EIS for the last 14 years – said: “Anti-doping is something that we’re all passionate about in the EIS, and we want to be able to watch athletes do absolutely amazing things and know they’re clean and they’re doing it fairly.
“Then I think Clean Sport Week is great because it increases the awareness of clean sport and it provides a platform for so many athletes and support staff to talk about their experiences. They create role model behaviour for other people to follow and learn from, and talk about some tricky situations and scenarios, to help others navigate through.”
A significant theme of the UKAD webinar was athlete education, and there’s no doubt that this is an important responsibility for Naylor and his EIS Performance Nutrition team, too.
“We lead with an education mindset in a lot of ways, in that we want to provide athletes with knowledge of nutrition that can help improve their health and help improve their performance,” Naylor said.
“But our approach is open and we want to understand where the athletes are coming from, and we want to understand their key questions around nutrition, their performance and how we can use nutrition to support them to achieve their goals.”
Not that the EIS nutritionists are doing it alone.
“Within the Institute we’re really proud about how we work in an inter-disciplinary fashion,” Naylor added.
“We don’t work as single disciplines, we work as a collective to support each other and amplify each other’s services to have the biggest impact that we can on performance.
“We can relate that to clean sport as well, as the education and training that we do within the Institute isn’t just for nutritionists. It isn’t just for medics. It’s something that we do with all our athlete-facing people.
“So we’re all aware of it. We all know how to work in different situations and scenarios to support athletes, and it’s so important to work as a team and as a collective. I think that’s one of the things in the EIS that we do really well.”
On the immediate horizon, appropriately enough, there are a Major Games for EIS practitioners to focus on: Birmingham 2022.
“We’ve got a number of practitioners involved in the Commonwealth Games, so they’ll be working with their performance support teams to refine their plans and get ready for competition,” Naylor explained.
“We want to create the best nutrition environment and processes to support the performance that we want to achieve.
“So that’s where we work very closely with performance chefs or chefs in hotels to help make sure that there’s the right food available, it’s accessible and it adheres to the nutritional practices.
“We’re helping the athletes navigate through their final preparations and fine-tuning things, so they can go out and do what they do and perform, and not have to think too much about it. They’re just focusing on what they need to do to perform at their peak.
“Paris [host of the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games] is coming up as well, so as well as the Commonwealth Games there’s a lot of planning and preparation for Paris – there’s a lot going on for athletes and practitioners supporting them, and a lot of great work within the Performance Support teams.”
UKAD’s website and its Clean Sport Hub contain a wealth of useful links and learning resources for athletes, while the Informed Sport website is a practical tool which helps athletes check supplements for banned substances. You can also read more about the EIS Performance Nutrition team here.