On the 1st May, GCSE and AS-level Sport students at Manchester High School for Girls (MHSG) had a rare opportunity to learn about the pitfalls of doping from elite sports therapist, Emma O’Reilly. Emma famously blew the whistle on Lance Armstrong and the US Postal Cycling Team in 2003. On her visit to MHSG, Emma talked openly to students about performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), her career in sport, and how she became a central figure in the biggest doping scandal in sporting history.
PE teacher, Sarah Rowley from Manchester High School for Girls, said: “The PE provision at MHSG is very strong with a number of girls doing team or individual sport at a high level. Our Sport students are currently studying the topic of PEDs and who better than Emma to give them an insight into the dangers of doping and how far some athletes go to become the ‘best’ in their discipline?”
In the 1990s, Emma worked with Lance Armstrong and his team as the only female soigneur in cycling. Today, Emma runs her own clinic and treats elite athletes from premiership footballers to Olympians. She hopes to inspire young women not to be afraid to pursue a career in the world of sport. She said: “It is important for young people to learn about the devastating effects that performance enhancing drugs can have on athletes, their sport and the people around them. I have seen first-hand how easy it is to be influenced and how even the good people can end up making grave mistakes. I want them to know that they can absolutely have a successful career in sport, even if it is traditionally viewed as a ‘man’s world’. I have always been treated equally both professionally and in terms of pay, but I do feel that, in a male environment, women must work harder to gain the same level of acceptance and respect as men.”
I have seen first-hand how easy it is to be influenced and how even the good people can end up making grave mistakes.
MHSG student, 15-year-old Elise Kotegaonkar from Bolton, is passionate about a range of sports. She was thrilled to meet Emma as she explained, “I was fascinated by Emma’s story and we all learned a lot from her talk. I couldn’t believe I was able to meet her personally! Staying active is really important to me and I play in the school netball, rounders, tennis, water polo and athletics squads. Performance enhancing drugs are an interesting part of our GCSE curriculum. I believe there is nothing positive to doping; cheating devalues you and it is hugely damaging to everyone around you. I’m looking forward to read more about the topic.”