Pippa Britton: If you want change, you've got to be in the room where decisions are made

A conversation with outgoing Vice-Chair of the UKAD Board, Pippa Britton - as featured in Inside the Games.

Pippa Britton - Headshot

Having spent six years on the UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) Board providing insight and experiences to help mould the development of anti-doping in sport, I want to reflect on my time with UKAD as it draws to an end this month and on my career to date and the importance of sport integrity.

I have always loved sport. I used to swim when I was a kid. Seven-year-old Pippa wanted to be a championship swimmer, but it didn’t quite work out like that. 

It wasn’t until after I got married that my husband was trying to encourage me to take up something new, so we went to one of these sport 'have a go' days. 

However, I discovered that having a disability meant there was a lot of stuff I couldn’t do as opposed to stuff I could. 

One of the things I could do that was on offer that day was archery, so I paid my 50p and shot my three arrows and went straight to the back of the queue to pay and do it again. 

I liked it from the moment I picked up the bow. However, I was completely useless! 

I did a six-week beginner course in which I spent most of my time missing the target rather than hitting it, but one of the things I really liked about it is you can see yourself improve gradually with consistent hard work.

I soon got encouraged to enter a few local competitions. I didn’t do too badly, and gradually just picked up some hints and tips along the way. It’s like anybody really when you first start out in a sport.

It got to a point where I started to realise my scores were getting quite good and I saw the scores for the British team published in the Archery GB magazine and I thought to myself, if I went out and got some coaching and support, maybe I could hit that target too. 

That’s basically what I did. Eventually I managed to qualify for the development squad in 1999. 

In 2001 I went to my first World Archery Championships, and I came second, then in 2003 I got a silver, then 2005 I got a bronze. 

The next one I got two golds in a row, then another silver. So, I did six World Championships back-to-back and got six podium finishes so I’m very proud of that part of my career. 

I also got to go to the Paralympic Games twice, but I didn’t medal at either.

I’m now a wheelchair user, but when I first started archery I was a standing archer. Gradually I went from standing, to sitting on a stool, to a wheelchair throughout the course of my career. 

I had two major spinal surgeries in the middle of my career that meant a wheelchair became necessary.

Now that I’m retired from competing I do quite a mix of things, where I volunteer my time and a few things where I get paid for my time. 

I don’t do anything I don’t really care about, and I don’t do anything for the money.

When I was an athlete, I was persuaded to be the athlete representative for the British team, which just basically means I would go and knock on the door of the performance director as and when needed on behalf of the team. 

The performance director and my coach encouraged me to stand as an athlete representative for World Archery. 

Once I got selected for that role I basically realised that if things aren’t right and you want things to change, then you’ve got to be in the room where the decisions are made.

At the time we had a category for men only and I just thought that it was intrinsically wrong, so during my first committee meeting at World Archery I asked why we had this category for men only and the answer was that there weren’t enough women. 

It’s sort of a catch-22 as if there isn't a category for women with the right classification, then there’s nothing for women to strive for or put themselves forward for. 

So, I began asking other countries how many women they had that could compete and came up with some evidence that I took to the committee, which led to them introducing a women’s category. 

It was held in Rio for the first time and is something I’m really proud to have been involved in.

I think you just realise sometimes if you want change to happen you can’t just sit on the sofa and complain to friends or relatives about it. 

You have to be somewhere to be able to influence that.

It was these experiences that led me to decide when retiring from sport that I wanted to do all I could to help influence change, so that’s how I’ve ended up where I am. 

The thing I really care about in life is that everything is fair and equal. So that archery example is a good one as it can’t be fair if it’s not gender neutral. 

This is also why I joined the UKAD Board as sport can’t be fair if someone is cheated out of a medal by another individual using performance enhancing drugs or other doping practices. 

I want to try and make the world a fairer place, which I know sounds cheesy, but we’ve all got to try haven’t we?

I hope that during my time on the UKAD Board I’ve been able to raise more awareness for Para-athletes when it comes to anti-doping. 

There’s a lot of challenges Para-athletes face, including things like sample collections and Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs). 

It’s not about me having all the answers of course, but it’s about me being able to raise awareness and being in the room to ask questions on behalf of those athletes.  

I haven’t ever personally been directly impacted by another athlete doping but your podium moment is special. 

The medal is great but not having that instant podium medal moment and being handed that medal years later must be heart wrenching, so I feel empathy for those athletes.  

There’s of course a lot of work still to be done to tackle doping. There will always be people who want to gain an unfair advantage. 

However, I think the creation of the Assurance Framework by UKAD is massive. I think because of it, national governing bodies will have the opportunity to ensure they are performing at the highest standard when it comes to anti-doping. 

It’s a bit like doing internal audits, they might poke holes in your system but it’s an opportunity to improve. 

As an athlete if your performance is analysed and you find out where your weaknesses are then you can work on improving them. It’s the same for national governing bodies and the processes they have in place.

The Assurance Framework not only tells people where they are doing well and what they could do better, it provides national governing bodies with a support system. 

I think at a UK level that’s a really important step forward.

I also personally believe education is really important. 

I’d like to see more integrity-based education built into PE curriculums at a school level, so it’s given a higher profile for kids. 

If kids are taught the very basics about drugs in sport they will have a greater awareness of the health risks and will learn that there are plenty of ways to achieve sporting greatness without short cuts.

Looking back, I was incredibly sad to step away from the UKAD Board. It’s a fantastic organisation full of great people who really care about what they do and about clean sport.

I’m still a part of Sport Wales as the vice-chair, contributing to community and elite sport in Wales. 

I’m also interim vice-chair for my local health board where I’m working to ensure patients are getting the best care available. 

All of that is keeping me quite busy at the moment. 

I’m sure there will be other things that interest me that I will apply for but the reality is there’s only so many hours in the day. 

I already do some voluntary work for World Archery and World Rugby League and I’m on the Board of the British Paralympic Association as well. 

So, I can’t afford to take on very much more. I feel I’m incredibly lucky to be where I am and, in a position, where I can contribute to the future of sport.

I’d like to thank UKAD for welcoming me into the organisation and would like to wish the new UKAD Board members all the best as I depart. 

I hope like me, they are given the opportunity to contribute to the future path of UKAD and the important work it does.