BLOG: Be part of the change, support athletes and shape the future of clean sport

Written by Jo Calvino, UKAD Athlete Commission Member

My journey in sport has been one of transition - first as an athlete, followed by coach, team manager, technical official, competition manager, UKAD Athlete Commission member and now as Chair on the Board of Welsh Weightlifting. Every role comes with its own level of responsibility, however, it is the responsibility of everyone to keep sport clean.

The world of anti-doping has evolved so much over the past twenty years. The World Anti-Doping Agency’s introduction to sport in the early 2000’s saw an increase in awareness of anti-doping and a standardised approach in the fight against doping. This included an increase in resources and education to athletes. As technology developed, the accessibility of information and guidance improved, allowing athletes and athlete support personnel to obtain advice quicker than ever before. It is important to familiarise yourself with the WADA Prohibited List and at a national level UKAD, who continue to upgrade and develop resources for all involved in sport - essential in the fight to keep sport clean.

To make better informed decisions for yourself and for athletes, you need to improve your own knowledge and understanding of the rules and regulations. The expectations and pressures of being an athlete to the highest level can be exhausting. It’s essential that we work with athletes to create systems, programmes and resources that can support and alleviate some of those pressures. As a young athlete I was fortunate to have a fantastic anti-doping education officer who always informed me of the rules, regulations and requirements every time, and especially when there were changes to the rules. I was always grateful for her support on my journey and for my own education.

UKAD’s 100% me values-based programme is designed just for athletes on their sporting journey. I believe 100% me has been a major turning point in UKAD’s relationship with athletes and sport. 100% me solely focusses on the responsibility and accountability of athletes within performance sport. It certainly helped and improved my understanding of strict liability. You also have the 100% me clean sport app, which is a great example of the work to move with the advancement of technology and instant access to information. Athletes should be encouraged to download this app onto their phones.

As a professional athlete and someone who loves sport, I always hoped that when I stepped onto the platform to compete with other athletes, we would all be on a level-playing field. Sadly, I don’t think this was always the case, which probably ignited the reason why I joined UKAD’s Athlete Commission, to have a voice and fight for the future of clean sport. Athletes need to take responsibility. Tools such as Global DRO and Informed Sport have been a great support for many athletes, coaches and support staff in understanding sports medicine and nutrition and whether products are suitable for consumption or if medication is appropriate or requires a TUE. Both UKAD’s Clean Sport Hub and the Protect Your Sport reporting initiative are essential in levelling the playing field.

Over the years I have gained valuable experience and learnt many lessons that have supported my journey and I have always been passionate on giving back to the sport. My view is, it is all too easy for us to say what sports are not doing or should be doing, but the reality is, change will only come if you are part of it. I joined the board at Weightlifting Wales just under two years ago to help support and drive positive change off the back of delivering a successful Commonwealth Games Weightlifting and Para Powerlifting event in Birmingham. I chose to put myself in the running for Chair of their Board because I believed I had the experience and the tools to help make positive change. By no means do I have all the answers, but I am willing to listen, learn and work with our key stakeholders and incredible board members and staff to maintain standards, whilst we create and develop opportunities for our members.

We are all invested in sport and we all understand the challenges and at times, frustrations, but also the opportunities. I can’t change the past, but I can certainly help support and shape the future through clean sport.

This blog was created for UKAD’s Clean Sport Week ‘Journey to the Podium’. As an athlete support person who has been inspired by Jo’s experiences, make sure to update your learning and support your athletes by staying up to date on your eLearning via UKAD’s Clean Sport Hub.