2 February 2010
A year on from Dame Tanni Grey Thompson’s Anti Doping Review, UKA Anti Doping Education Coordinator David Walsh reflects on his experiences working within the sport.
It is not often that the work of the anti-doping team at UKA is reported on – but exactly one year on from the announcement of Dame Tanni Grey Thompson’s Anti-Doping Review it is good to share a number of developments which have taken place in this area.
I was appointed as UKA Anti Doping Education Coordinator in May 2009 and my first 8 months in the role has been a fascinating experience; not least because my role places me at the forefront of Dame Tanni’s recommendation to invest in an athlete education strategy .
With the outdoor season in full swing and the high number of age group championships typical of every other year, it was straight in at the deep end – in a matter of weeks I had to ensure that vital support and assistance was available to athletes to help them meet their commitments to drug free sport, as well as start to identify how as a department we could become even more proactive in the future.
Helping those athletes selected for the National Registered Testing Pool (NRTP) to provide their whereabouts on ADAMS (the Anti-Doping Administration & Management System) was an immediate priority and arguably one of the most important in supporting athletes with their AD responsibilities. .
It’s a credit to our sport how athletes in the NRTP welcomed the support on offer. One Olympic finalist was keen to tell me how he felt the process of updating ADAMS on a quarterly basis was a small price to pay for a clean sport.
Coaches too have been instrumental in facilitating my work with the athletes. One coach lined up his squad to meet me formally, thus giving a clear message of the importance of anti doping to their athletics career. Whilst I was not after such a dramatic introduction, his and others’ support has meant I have been able to make great progress with my work from the very first day – and not face a delay in having to win ‘hearts and minds’.
ADAMS however remains just one part of the equation. This year I will introduce a series of measures to ensure effective education and information is introduced to support the sport’s anti doping efforts from all angles and at all levels.
2010 will see the anti-doping programme reach out further than it has ever done to fulfil Dame Tanni’s recommendations. This year we will also focus on younger athletes – particularly those involved in high standard age group competition. It takes many years to mature in some events , but athletes can also accelerate through the levels to senior events in the space of a few months. A teenage athlete can suddenly find themselves competing with seniors and being required to engage with the anti-doping programme amongst many other responsibilities.
Support staff, including coaches, are also a key area. Many of them are in a prime position to reinforce the message, and they too will be offered increased education opportunities going forward from this April.
The task of anti doping education is never ending but I am hopeful that with enhanced anti-doping education systems in the UK and across the globe we can succeed in supporting our athletes in their enjoyment of a healthy, drug-free sport.