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  • OpEd: London Conference Amplifies Athlete Voice


    (ATR) Para powerlifter Ali Jawad endorses the Partnership for Clean Competition conference in April.

    Ali Jawad competes at the 2018 Commonwealth Games (Getty Images)
    The British lifter won silver at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro. He was world champion in his class in 2014.

    Jawad is also a member of the new athlete-led Movement, Global Athlete Start-Up Group.

    He supplied this OpEd to Around the Rings about the PCC conference coming in April:

    From April 16 to 18 at King’s College University in London, I have the privilege of speaking on the opening day of the Partnership for Clean Competition (PCC) Conference during a session titled Promoting the Athlete Voice.

    This will be the first time the PCC has held its biennial event across this side of the pond, with the previous four Conferences taking place at Major League Baseball headquarters in New York.

    As an athlete that’s followed the previous PCC Conferences from afar, I think it’s a significant sign of the PCC’s growth that it is upping sticks to London at a time when the clean sport cause is in the spotlight like never before, and why it has put the athlete voice at the heart of its conference agenda at a time when it is such a big topic in sport.

    As many people will know, I’ve been an outspoken and passionate supporter of reform in anti-doping for a long time, but especially lately given what I believe has been a real mishandling by WADA and the IOC of the biggest crisis we’ve seen in sport for many years: the Russian Doping Crisis. It’s been such a big crisis they even made an Oscar- and Bafta-winning film about it!

    Jawad is a member of the Global Athlete Start-Up Group (Getty Images)
    My passion for speaking up for change has only ever been purely constructive. Athletes like me - and there have been so many athletes out there representing the majority viewpoint which is that athletes want better representation and WADA to open up and give us a meaningful voice on anti-doping – want to see an emboldened global anti-doping system more in keeping with what athletes want. We don’t want to see the disconnect and gap grow any wider than it already it is between athletes and administrators.

    With this backdrop to today’s anti-doping landscape, I believe it’s telling that the PCC has put athletes first, right at the heart of its London agenda. While its ‘bread and butter’ is still as a scientific research pioneer and an organisation that offers grants for innovative science and detection techniques in anti-doping, I for one am pleased that the PCC is flexible and current enough to incorporate the athlete voice at the heart of its conference agenda. It shows that no one area of anti-doping is isolated: we need good science, but we also need a strong athlete voice holding anti-doping system to account.

    We need stronger, no-nonsense compliance against rule breakers just like we need a watertight legal system. With the PCC opening up its agenda to cover all these types of areas, it’s really now shown itself to be the go-to event on the clean sport calendar, head and shoulders above any other in terms of it being an authentic, open and free speech event where we can all offer our points of view even if we disagree!

    Don’t expect the PCC Conference to be all “on script”; expect the opposite because when you have people around the table from Olympic Sport, Non-Olympic Sport (the American Pro Leagues), scientists, lawyers and athletes, there will be all sorts of differing opinions. But, to me (and I think most others), that’s a good thing. It’s reality and it’s how the world works. We can’t all expect to agree on everything, but only if the real issues are out in the open (and not behind closed doors as we’ve seen recently in anti-doping!) will we make progress.

    An authentic and inclusive approach to debate is what we need to see more of if the anti-doping powers that be such as WADA and the IOC are to regain credibility.

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