UKAD’s Chief Executive, Nicole Sapstead welcomed delegates to Tackling Doping in Sport 2016.
I’d like to touch briefly on three areas that the last 14 months have highlighted for me:
First of all, I think that sport is at risk of losing sight of what makes it enjoyable in the first place – the athletes and their amazing performances. I had a conversation with someone from a sport a few weeks back and we both pondered the question of what has happened to sport? With headlines dominated by doping, corruption, match fixing instead of human feats of brilliance, skill, talent and endurance.
The public pays money to watch sport, to be part of the performance, the thrills, the highs the lows….and in turn the sportsmen and women rely on them for their support and encouragement.
Cheating comes in many forms be it doping, match fixing, feigning a poor tackle or using a motorized bicycle in a competition
If the public doesn’t trust what they are witnessing they are going to stop paying, coming out to watch or turning on the TV. The public wants a return on their investment by watching performances which are honest and real. We should not take a sports fan base for granted nor should they be taken advantage of.
When a country or sport is accused of doping, or corruption or poor governance it undermines our trust and more sadly, the performances of athletes, their endeavors, their trials and tribulations, their sweat and tears and the fact that the majority of them compete cleanly is overshadowed. Cynicism breeds, and quickly.
I’m proud to lead UKAD, I’m proud of my team which is so dedicated and hard working. I hope that the public takes a degree of comfort from the fact that UKAD exists and we do all we possibly can to root out those who chose to dope or who are party to it. The overriding reason for agreeing to assist in the delivery of a testing programme in Russia was that we owed it to all the clean athletes around the world, not just in the UK to do something rather than nothing.
But Anti-Doping Organisations can only do so much. Our efforts must be supported by governments and sports who must do the right thing to support and protect the clean athletes. Now more than ever before, sport needs robust and decisive leadership.
This leads me to my second point. Sports need to invest in this area, and I don’t just mean through words, policies, rules, educational resources, I mean a financial investment. The majority of UKAD’s funding comes from the UK taxpayer – only certain sports supplement their ‘free’ programme by putting their hands in their pockets. If we think this issue is important and we want to see a proper investment made in it – then surely it is time for other sports to follow their lead.
When you compare the investment in anti-doping in the UK with the investment that is made in sport, our figures get lost in the workings out. Each Olympic medal equates to an investment over 4 years of over £4.6m. Our annual budget is not even equivalent to 2 medals. The worldwide value of media rights, merchandising and ticket sales is billions of dollars. Should a high profile sportsperson be found to have committed an anti-doping rule violation then the financial consequences for that sport are significant. How many sports can truly say that they are doing everything within their gift as regards anti-doping as opposed to simply going through the motions and tipping their hat to an inconvenient necessity?
And lastly to my third point – Anti-Doping is finally being talked about. Whilst it might be because of a scandal or a crisis – sports, athletes, the media and the public at large are talking about it more than ever before. And for me, that can only be a good thing. For too long anti-doping has been treated almost like a bad word – pushed to the bottom of the agenda when it comes to a major event, its organization; its functional areas. Sports accept that it is a necessity but the less attention that it draws and the least one can get away, the better. Today is a great opportunity, with so many experienced and passionate individuals in the room, who hold the principle of anti-doping dear to talk more and debate what more needs to be done to protect the clean athletes and the purity of sport.