Opinion 26th February 2019

Athletes First: Why PCC London 2019 has put athletes at the heart of the Agenda

The Partnership for Clean Competition (PCC) biennial Conference has grown into one of, if not the, most talked about event on the anti-doping calendar. As a complex sector within modern-day sport, anti-doping has become notorious for becoming increasingly bureaucratic and averse to change. At the PCC, one of the benefits of being a young organization is that we’re agile and nimble enough to ensure we evolve as an organization and reflect the current challenges we are all facing within the clean sport community. 

That’s why, as we head to London to mark only the sixth conference of our young history, we are putting athletes right at the heart of the agenda. To those that follow us, we may be viewed as a scientific research pioneer; an organization that funds grants for cutting-edge research that enhances the fight for clean sport through better detection of banned substances and solves the most significant scientific problems that we face in the clean sport movement. And while that may well be the case – we remain first and foremost a partnership body with science at its core – we have progressed into a broader organization; one that realizes anti-doping science cannot work in isolation, it has to be seen within the wider context of non-analytical anti-doping (such as investigations), compliance, ethics and athlete rights. This evolution of the PCC is evident none more so than through our biennial event where, in just eight weeks’ time, the rise in the athlete voice will top the agenda at King’s College London. 

We recognize that empowering the athlete voice is a topic that has not just made the headlines in North America, but also across in the U.K. and Europe where athletes have been taking a stand for a decades-old Olympic and Paralympic Sport issue: the disconnect between athletes and sporting leaders. We’ve seen it in anti-doping and outside anti-doping; and it’s undeniable there’s an emerging trend of athletes feeling emboldened to voice their views and right what they believe are the wrongs of the sport governance systems. Athletes feel their time has now come. 

With all arrows pointing in the direction of change, I’m proud that the PCC is taking a lead in putting athletes at the heart of its Conference. We’ll hear from someone widely considered the global figurehead for anti-doping and the athlete voice, the World Anti-Doping Agency Athlete Chair and Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Champion, Beckie Scott.

But it’s not just Beckie – trailblazer though she has been for the anti-doping movement. We will be welcoming Rio 2016 Paralympic Silver Medalist and prominent athlete voice, Ali Jawad, as he participates in the Promoting the Athlete Voice session on the opening day. Rising star and Rio Olympic Champion Callum Skinner, who is now leading the charge for Global Athlete, will also be joined at King’s College by a number of top athletes including leading American long-distance runner, Kara Goucher.

We’ll also hear from the best that the scientific, legal, and social science communities have to offer. We will engage in thoughtful debate that both confronts our challenges and praises our successes, but most of all is focused on solving problems that will enable us to protect all clean athletes at all levels of sport.

What I hope is that athletes, and all others that come through the doors at King’s College, will enjoy an event that addresses the challenges we face in an inclusive and authentic forum where free speech is championed, and every perspective is welcomed. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: it’s only through embracing diverging opinions and not ignoring them, that real progress will be made in clean sport. I hope that PCC London 2019 and the topics and debates we’ll have will lend themselves to encouraging people to speak up, speak out and seek solutions at this crucial time for anti-doping in sport.

• The 2019 Partnership for Clean Competition (PCC) Conference will take place at King’s College London, from 16 to 18 April 2019. Click here for more information about the event.

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