WADA President opens Global Education Conference in Sydney
The President of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), Witold Bańka, was the key-note speaker on the first day of WADA’s Global Education Conference (GEC), which is taking place from 20-22 September in Sydney, Australia, and his message was clear: It is time for education to become a central pillar of every Anti-Doping Organization’s (ADO’s) clean sport strategy.
Graciously hosted by Sport Integrity Australia (SIA), the GEC has welcomed over 300 participants from around the globe under the theme of celebrating a new era in education through innovation, collaboration and implementation. The event has brought together anti-doping practitioners and researchers to share and discuss emerging trends, contribute to education program development, and examine how ADOs can enhance their education programs while keeping athletes and their support personnel at the center of their learning strategies. This is the third edition of the GEC, having previously been staged in Ottawa, Canada (2015), and Beijing, China (2018).
Addressing the Conference, Mr. Bańka stressed that only through collaboration and information-sharing exercises, such as the GEC, can real progress be made in this area.
Mr. Bańka said: “We all have a role to play. I know the incredible level of passion and commitment for anti-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 is strong. Taking that passion with us, we can all lead by example, taking bold steps to tackle the issues with agility and innovation. We can engage and collaborate with each other to increase support, unity and understanding. We can raise awareness and shape 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 more and more becoming a key pillar.
“Education is the single 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’, too. WADA has fully embraced education and it is time that all Anti-Doping Organizations and governments of the world do the same, just as they are doing here in Australia.
“All the time we must engage and empower athletes so their anti-doping journey is easier, so they are part of the decision-making process, and so they can build healthy and sustainable careers in sport. This is how they will inspire the next generation of athletes to do the same. Education is the key to this. It is time to put it front and center and take it as seriously as we take other key areas of anti-doping, like science, medicine and the law. WADA has done this and so has Australia – I am calling on all Anti-Doping Organizations to do the same. Athletes all over the world deserve nothing less.”
Also speaking, via video message, on the first day of the Conference was the Minister for Sport in the Government of Australia, the Honorable Anika Wells MP, who said: “Beyond success in elite competition, Aussies believe passionately that sport should be fair. I am delighted that the conversations have shifted beyond just access to education. I know this education approach is a view President Bańka and I share, and I extend my praise and respect to WADA for their commitment to prioritizing education and for their effort to upskill the global anti-doping profession. I am immensely proud of the work Sport Integrity Australia has done in this space but believe there is always more we can learn from each other.”
Chief Executive of SIA, David Sharpe, said: “Sport Integrity Australia has witnessed the value of education firsthand when it comes to positive tests due to supplements. The number of positive tests attributed to supplements has dropped dramatically since, with only three in 2019-20, one in 2020-21, and none in 2021-22.”
Chair of WADA’s Education Committee, Kady Kanouté Tounkara, added: “It is great to see so many people here in Sydney for this conference. I am looking 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, gain inspiration and hopefully meet our objectives of increasing our collective capability to deliver effective anti-doping education programs to protect athletes and the spirit of sport.”
The Conference includes sessions on devising an education plan, as well as learning and education activities, including developing a curriculum or learning framework. The important topic of how best to recruit and train quality educators is also being discussed, while there is a session on the latest innovations and technology being used in digital education. Conference delegates are learning how to know if their program has made a difference and are hearing about the work that has been going on when it comes to prevalence. The important role and influence that coaches, parents, medics and others play in the lives and careers of athletes from a very young age is also being highlighted. Educating the entourages of athletes, therefore, is crucial. These topics and much, much more are being addressed over the course of 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. In addition, WADA together with SIA, will organize ‘regional conversations’ where stakeholders from different parts of the world will be able to network and discuss their progress, challenges and needs, with an opportunity to ask questions to the Ms. Kanouté Tounkara, as well as the WADA’s Director of Education, Amanda Hudson.
In recent years, WADA has invested heavily in education, creating a stand-alone Education Department and implementing the International Standard for Education, which outlines in detail what Signatories to the World Anti-Doping Code must do in this area to ensure athletes are educated and have the tools they need to make the right choices for their careers, for their health and for the sports they play