Sports pharmacy practice and education: A global overview

Ashley Anderson, Claire May, Mark Stuart, david motrram

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned reportpeer-review


Executive summary
Inspired by the athletes themselves, their athleticism, and the spirit of competitive sport, pharmacists have become key players as athlete support personnel (ASP). As ASP, pharmacists support appropriate medication
selection and provision of medicines management in the healthcare of athletes and pharmacy operations of sporting events. Increasingly recognised within the world of sports as a valuable expertise, the practice is known as “sports pharmacy”. The specialty of sports pharmacy is no longer a niche area but is one gaining traction as a recognised specialty on a global scale. Sports pharmacists advocate the health of recreational or competitive athletes in many settings and have been integral to the anti-doping movement. Pharmacists, as the most accessible healthcare provider, and often a first point of contact in the self-care continuum, have a unique and important role in providing accurate medicines-related information to athletes and the athlete support team to avoid inadvertent doping and adverse drug events, and support and review appropriate
prescribing where applicable. This requires awareness of sports science, anti-doping rules and regulations, and physiopharmacology. Initial training through undergraduate studies and advanced training through
continuing professional development in these areas facilitate pharmacist competency to function as ASP.

In 1999, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was formally established to protect athletes by promoting clean sport and embedding the “spirit of sport” on an international level. To achieve this, stakeholders harmonised
anti-doping rules and established policies for all sports globally, which primarily focus on medicines and methods of blood or gene manipulation. This focus provides a unique opportunity for pharmacists, the experts
in therapeutics, to accurately interpret pharmaceutical and pharmacological information and evidence for athletes and the ASP. Through their accessibility and expertise, pharmacists help athletes to avoid inadvertent
doping while preserving their health and athleticism.
As therapeutics have evolved and advanced, so too has the expert role of the pharmacist in sports evolved and advanced with growing significance; this report aims to define this emerging specialist pharmacy area.
Accessibility to accredited continuing professional development in sports pharmacy will improve athletes’ safety and therapeutic outcomes and pharmacists’ value to their communities.

In 2014, the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) published guidelines titled “The role of the pharmacist in the fight against doping in sport”, which presented what individual pharmacists need to consider in providing information to athletes or working in sports. This document lists that pharmacists
• Keep up to date on the contents of the World Anti-Doping Code;
• Promote the benefits to health of exercise, including participation in sporting activities, not least for those living with specific medical conditions;
• Remain vigilant to differentiate between the justified use of medicines and illegitimate practice;
• When circumstances permit, refuse to supply a medicine when it is clearly intended to be used to
improve performance illegitimately;
• When informed that a person participates in competitive sport, enter that information in the
individual’s medication record;
• Provide information to those identified as being involved in a competitive sport to help them
recognise which medicines contain a substance included in the lists in the WADA Prohibited List;
• Provide information to those involved in sports on the benefits of nutritional supplements and the
risks associated with using them;
• As part of pharmaceutical manufacturers, cooperate with WADA by informing the agency of the
marketing of any new medicinal product that has the potential to be used for improving performance
in sport; and
• Assist WADA to develop methods of testing to detect the use of substances, such as those on the WADA
lists and new substances that have the potential to improve performance.

To further the aims and objectives of these FIP guidelines, this publication on sports pharmacists’ contributions to this area of practice delineates opportunities and proposes qualifications necessary to work
within sports to support the health of athletes. This report defines the specialty area of sports pharmacy and demonstrates pharmacists’ involvement in the healthcare of athletes, pharmacy services in sports, and the
Sports pharmacy practice: describing the specialty and training goals.|
unique position of pharmacists in supporting athlete health and the anti-doping movement.
This global overview of sports pharmacy provides the evidence base for the expert guidance on how all pharmacists can
develop their practice to deliver quality services at a range of sporting events as well as directly to athletes,
who may be competitive or non-competitive recreational athletes.1
The report also calls for adoption of formalised and quality education on sports pharmacy across international
undergraduate curricula. Undergraduate and postgraduate education programmes in sports pharmacy could
and should train and equip pharmacists with baseline knowledge and skills to advise and support athletes in
making rational choices regarding effective clinical drug use or nutritional supplement options while ensuring
compliance with the rules of the World Anti-Doping Code (WADC) and sports federations. Guidance on a
framework for sports pharmacy education is presented in this report, along with examples of successful
implementation at several pharmacy schools across the globe.
This report further seeks to demonstrate the wider impact that pharmacists have within sports and the health
care of athletes based on experts’ experiences and FIP members’ case examples. To fully embed this into
pharmacy practice, it is necessary to have a robust strategy that underpins the delivery of quality continuing
education and training to upskill the workforce.
This report aims to inform the knowledge and skills framework that can support a pharmacist to identify
continuing professional development to add value to their practice and ultimately attain an accredited
qualification for this expertise (FIP Development Goal 14 [Medicines expertise]). Current education and
training pathways for pharmacists to continuously develop knowledge and skills were reviewed, along with
examples of opportunities for continuing professional development in sports pharmacy. This provides a
platform from which stakeholders can embed clear and accessible developmental frameworks to support
professional career development within sports pharmacy (FIP DG 5 [Competency development]).
In summary, pharmacists with an interest in sports pharmacy can use this document to self-assess their own
learning needs and identify areas where they may require additional education and learning. Pharmacists
involved in delivering education can use the knowledge and skills described within the document as a guide
for educational course development. The overall aims of this report are to:
• Highlight potential career paths for pharmacists with a mission to support athletes with safe and
effective pharmacy care, while avoiding possible inadvertent doping; and
• Increase awareness of opportunities where pharmacists can gain knowledge and increase their skills
within sports pharmacy through reputable quality training, experience and education programmes.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages65
Publication statusPublished - 8 Dec 2022


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