World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) President Witold Bańka was the keynote speaker on WADA’s first day World Conference on Education (GEC)taking place September 20-22 in Sydney, Australia, and its message was clear: it’s time education became a central pillar of every Anti-Doping Organization’s (ADO’s) clean sport strategy.
Kindly hosted by Sports Integrity Australia (SIA), the GEC welcomed more than 300 participants from around the world under the theme of celebrating a new era in education through innovation, collaboration and implementation. The event brought together anti-doping practitioners and researchers to share and discuss emerging trends, contribute to the development of education programs and examine how ADOs can improve their education programs while keeping athletes and their support personnel in center of their learning strategies. This is the third edition of the GEC, having previously been held in Ottawa, Canada (2015), and Beijing, China (2018).
Addressing the Conference, Mr. Bańka underlined that only collaborative and information-sharing exercises, such as the GEC, can achieve real progress in this area.
Mr. Bańka said: “We all have a role to play. I know the incredible level of passion and commitment to the fight against doping among athletes, sports, governments, national anti-doping organizations, laboratories, service providers, researchers, members of the media and the public . The collective will is there. It’s strong. By taking this passion with us, we can all lead by example, taking bold steps to solve problems with agility and innovation. We can engage and collaborate with each other to increase support, unity and understanding. We can raise awareness and send a clear message that clean sport is the only sport we will accept and celebrate. »
Mr Bańka said that modern anti-doping was about promoting and protecting athletes and that meant education was increasingly becoming a key pillar.
“Education is the best way to prevent doping in sport. Yes, anti-doping is there to “catch and punish”, but it is also very important that we “support and prevent”. WADA has fully embraced education and it is time for all anti-doping organizations and governments around the world to do the same, just as they are doing here in Australia.
“We must constantly engage and empower athletes so that their anti-doping journey is easier, so they are part of the decision-making process and can build healthy and lasting careers in sport. This is how they will inspire the next generation of athletes to do the same. Education is the key. It’s time to bring it to the fore and take it as seriously as we take other key areas in the fight against doping, such as science, medicine and law. WADA has done it, so has Australia – I call on all anti-doping organizations to do the same. Athletes around the world deserve nothing less.
Also speaking, via video message, on the first day of the conference, the Australian Government’s Minister for Sport, the Honorable Anika Wells, said: “Beyond success in elite competition, Australians believe passionately that sport should be fair. I’m glad the conversations went beyond just access to education. I know that this educational approach is a view that President Bańka and I share, and I give my praise and respect to WADA for its commitment to putting education first and for its efforts to perfect the global anti-doping profession. I am immensely proud of the work that Sport Integrity Australia has done in this area, but I think we can always learn more from each other.
SIA chief executive David Sharpe said: “Sport Integrity Australia has witnessed the value of education firsthand when it comes to positive tests from supplements. The number of positive tests attributed to supplements has dropped significantly since then, with just three in 2019-20, one in 2020-21, and none in 2021-22.
WADA Education Committee Chair Kady Kanouté Tounkara added: “It’s great to see so many people here in Sydney for this conference. I look forward to a great week of cooperation, innovation and collaboration. This is our opportunity as a community to come together, share best practices, grow together, find inspiration, and hopefully achieve our goals of increasing our collective ability to deliver health programs. effective anti-doping education to protect athletes and the spirit of sport.
The conference includes sessions on the design of an education plan, as well as learning and education activities, including the development of a curriculum or learning framework. The important topic of how best to recruit and train quality educators is also covered, while a session is devoted to the latest innovations and technologies used in digital education. Conference delegates learn if their program has made a difference and hear about the work being done on prevalence. The important role and influence that coaches, parents, doctors and others play in the lives and careers of athletes from an early age is also highlighted. Education of those around athletes is therefore crucial. These topics and more are covered during the two-day conference.
Then, on Thursday, the Conference will be followed by the SIA Innovation Day. Led by SIA, this session is designed to excite, engage and inspire anti-doping education practitioners around the world by showcasing innovative approaches to learning. Additionally, WADA, in conjunction with the SIA, will host “Regional Conversations” where stakeholders from different parts of the world can network and discuss their progress, challenges and needs, with the opportunity to ask questions of Ms. Kanouté Tounkara, as well as AMA Director of Education, Amanda Hudson.
Over the past few years, the AMA has invested heavily in education, establishing a stand-alone education department and implementing the International standard for educationwhich details what signatories to the World Anti-Doping Code must do in this area to ensure that athletes are educated and have the tools they need to make the right choices for their careers, for their health and for sports that they practice