Research on drugs and supplements in amateur boxing

November 15, 2019 | by Matt Halfpenny


Academics from Brighton University and Nottingham Trent University, in conjunction with England Boxing, have completed a qualitative research project examining the potential use of supplements and drugs within amateur boxing in England.

The article develops an academic understanding of what many members will already understand – that engaging in boxing can help young people stay away from drugs.

The title of the paper is ‘Drugs and supplements in amateur boxing: pugilistic amateurism and ideologies of performance’ and can be downloaded here.

The research has been written by Dr Christopher Matthews and Mark Jordan, who said: ‘’For those of us who have spent considerable time in boxing gyms, the fact of the sports potential to positively effectives the development of children and young adults becomes largely self-evident.

“While even the most ardent fan of boxing will admit it’s not a panacea capable of solving all society’s problems, many have witnessed, usually on multiple occasions, the benefits of engaging in the structured, disciplined, respectful and challenging physical activity that is the hallmark of participation in sport.

“Yet, attempting to understand and explain what, if anything, is specific to boxing which marks it out in comparison to other sports and activities as able to produce these positive experiences is challenging.

“We might all have our ideas, suspicions or guesses based on previous personal experiences as to how this works, but it requires such data to be pulled together within some conceptual framework or theory in order for us to make broad conclusions.

“This is what we attempted to do within our recently published paper that considered drug and supplement use in amateur boxing. We produced two major findings, neither of which will be a surprise for boxing insiders.

Firstly, there is good reason to believe participation in the sport can help children and young adults avoid recreation drug use.

“Secondly, despite the motivation to improve performance the use of supplements is minimal within the sport and there was an almost complete rejection of illicit performance enhancing drugs.

“So while many of you will say “tell us something we don’t already know”, we have used this data, in conjunction with previously published research, to shed light on the manner that the amateur ethos, which is still embedded within the sport, appears to be a main means by which this process happens.

“We argue that there is something relatively unique about amateur boxing that sets it apart from other sports in this regard.

“While we explore this in relation to drugs and supplements, we attempt to mark out how this ‘pugilistic amateurism’ might be usefully considered as one of the key dimension which coaches, boxers, officials and scholars alike might wish to think about when they’re trying to understand the sports power to produce positive social and personal outcomes.

“Anyway, we hope the argument in the paper speaks for itself and we encourage you to read it, hopefully it’s not overly ‘academic’ and we apologise if this is the case. If you have any questions about the work, or would like to chat over it please feel free to contact Dr Matthews who is happy to listen to critical observations and discuss the implications for your own practices within your gyms and beyond.’’

For any information about how this research is going to inform on-going anti-doping activity in England Boxing please contact the England Boxing National Compliance Manager, via