THREE-TIME Olympian and world-renowned ‘Clean Sport’ advocate Beckie Scott said she was ‘hugely encouraged and inspired’ by her recent visit to Ireland.
The former Olympic cross-country champion, who is Chair of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Athlete Committee, was here as a guest of the Olympic Federation of Ireland’s Athletes’ Commission at an event last April.
She not only met with athletes but also gave a powerful speech to officials from a wide range of Irish governing bodies at the launch of Sport Ireland’s annual Anti-Doping Report.
Canadian Scott won cross-country bronze at the 2002 Winter Olympics but, even as she was travelling to the medal ceremony, heard that the two athletes ahead of her had failed drugs tests.
“Over a period of two years, when my bronze was upgraded to silver, and then gold, I decided I was not going to be part of the problem anymore but the solution,” she said, explaining why she feels athletes themselves have a growing role in the Clean Sport movement.
“Sport possesses the power to transcend barriers and transform lives. It brings people together and tells unbelievable stories of the human spirit.
“As athletes we know how precious that is and, more than any other stakeholders, also understand how vulnerable it is,” she added.
Scott works full-time, as a Director/CEO for a sport for social development organisation (with indigenous communities) in Canda so her advocacy with WADA is purely voluntary.
She actually stood down as chair of its Compliance Review Committee late last year, to protest at its reinstatement of Russia’s Anti-Doping Authority.
Yet she remains chair of WADA’s Athletes’ Commission because she believes passionately in change from within.
“Yes, credibility has been lost and confidence has been shaken. But that’s all the more reason to stay there. So many athletes are dependent on us as their voice within the organisation. That’s why I didn’t quit,” she said.
She believes there is “a sea-change internationally” in the power of athletes’ voices, citing Germany where they successfully campaigned for policy change on one IOC marketing rule recently.
“I think there was lip service for a long time, where athletes’ commissions were still under the umbrella of their organisations and were not allowed to confront or challenge,” Scott noted.
“But that is changing and I found Team Ireland and Sport Ireland to have a very good relationship with their Athletes’ Commission which is very encouraging and inspiring,” she added.
The chairperson of OFI’s Athletes’ Commission, Shane O’Connor, stressed that it has been “given free rein to establish what athletes feel and want to suggest in order to keep our sports clean.
“We want to hear Irish athletes’ problems but also their suggestions for solutions,” he stressed. “We want to be proactive and lead the Clean Sport movement.
“Our strap-line is ‘Athlete designed, Athlete driven, Athlete solutions. That not only means educating clean athletes but educating people on how doping impacts clean athletes.”
Recently returned from the IOC’s biennial Athletes’ Commissions’ Forum in Lausanne, O’Connor observed: “Ireland is way ahead in terms of some of the athlete commissions I spoke to. We have an (OFI) executive who have not only supported us but given us automony.
“They’ve said ‘if you think there’s an issue, stand on it. Tell us you’re going to do it and, even if we don’t fully agree with you because we have a different perspective, we are happy for you to raise it’. That is very empowering for us.”