Protect Your Sport: UKAD Athlete Commission Member Laura Deas on fair play
Olympic bronze medallist Laura Deas knows from personal experience just how difficult it used to be to feedback intelligence about doping suspicions but has urged anyone with information to use the pathways available through UK Anti-Doping (UKAD).
Deas’ sport, skeleton was rocked by a doping scandal at the Sochi 2014 Olympics when men’s gold medallist Alexsandr Tretyakov and women’s bronze medallist Elena Nikitina were both stripped of their medals before being restored on appeal.
It was part of the reason that Deas has become such an advocate for clean sport, joining the UKAD Athlete Commission after winning her bronze in PyeongChang in 2018.
And after her own experience of raising the alarm, she is pleased to see that the current system is far more accessible for athletes, with UKAD’s Protect Your Sport campaign allowing them to share information confidentially through a variety of channels.
Deas explained: “The main reason why I joined the Athlete Commission at UKAD was because I feel really passionate about fair play.
“I think I became really aware on a more personal level of the threat of doping in sport as an athlete in the wake of Sochi 2014 and the scandal around that. I really wanted to do something in a more official capacity to help to drive change and spread that message of the importance of clean sport. It was that which got me thinking about it and the opportunity came up within UKAD and I thought I’d go for it.
“It feels a lot more accessible now and less of a taboo thing to do. UKAD has done a lot of work with their Protect Your Sport campaign to really make it clear to people where those avenues of reporting concerns are.
“Before that, when I had personal experience of using a whistleblowing service, I went through the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA’s) portal.
“That was something that I had to find out for myself, there wasn’t anyone telling me what I could do.
“It was something I wanted to do, I had something that I wanted to report but it was up to me to dig out this way of getting in touch with WADA anonymously. It’s a lot clearer now what access there is for athletes reporting.”
Under the old system, Deas was not even aware of who she was getting in touch with, admitting that she eventually lost the login details to be able to follow up on the case.
UKAD have worked hard to make the process much simpler for athletes, who can get in touch through an email address, an online form or a 24/7 hotline, with all informant details remaining anonymous, as outlined in its Whistleblowing Policy.
And Deas explained that any information can be useful.
She added: “It is important because you might have seen something or heard something that doesn’t necessarily seem 100% conclusive or important but you don’t know the bigger picture that the information fits into.
“You might think it is something innocuous, but you might be providing the missing link in some intelligence and investigation that is already going on.
“It’s better to report something and it come to nothing than not report it and wonder whether you might have been able to have an impact.”
For Deas though, the impact of the UKAD Athletes Commission stretches beyond improving the intelligence system, with the group serving as the voice of those competing at the highest level.
She added: “I love the fact that we are consulted as a group of athletes and we are able to give the athlete’s view on things. I think that’s really important because the more you keep the athletes in the conversation around anti-doping, the more impactful the outcomes can be.
“Something that I have seen during my time on the Athlete Commission is an improvement in the whereabouts system which I really wanted to see when I joined. I wanted to make that easier and more accessible for athletes because it was one of the big bugbears of the systems.”
Athletes must provide their whereabouts information each quarter to enable out-of-competition testing. This information must be entered and updated in the Athlete Central App or the Anti-Doping Administration Management System (ADAMS), both managed by WADA.
Deas added: “The vast majority of athletes are trying to do the right thing and the whereabouts system definitely needed a bit of an update. I’m pleased to say that has happened. It’s a big tick in my book.”
Protecting clean sport depends on everyone in sport playing their part to maintain a level playing field. If you have any suspicions that something’s not right, no matter how small, search Protect Your Sport or email email@example.com.