This is the speech delivered by the Hon. Minister of Sports, Justina Charles, at the opening of the UNESCO workshop in Dominica on Monday, August 26th.
Thanks to the National Anti Doping Organisation (NADO) for inviting me to address participants of this workshop.
The workshop has as its theme “Building awareness and advocacy to eliminate doping in Sports”; a theme and a workshop, I believe that are timely given the recent fall out of grace of a number of athletes on the international and regional scenes due to the use of enhancing substances. Luckily for us in Dominica, we have not had such incident and I do hope such will always be the case hence the need for us to continue building awareness and to continue advocating in order to ensure that our athletes are drug free.
I would like to, therefore, congratulate and thank the Dominica NADO for this initiative towards empowering sports leaders with the tool to continue to fight against drugs in sport.
The Government of Dominica is committed towards this fight; this workshop and Dominica’s NADO are testimonies of our commitment.
The establishment of Dominica’s NADO came into being because of the commitment of the Government and the DOC to being a part of the Caribbean Regional Anti Doping Organisation (RADO). This commitment includes among others: -
- Being compliant with the World Anti Doping code which also included the establishing of a National Anti Doping Organisation.
- Ensuring that NADO and RADO work together to conduct the most effective anti-doping programmes within the country. This include both testing and education initiatives.
- Committing to the ratifying of the UNESCO Convention.
- Committing to paying our financial contributions to WADA and RADO
- Also, the appointment/recommendation of country representatives on the RADO Board.
The process of ratifying the UNESCO Convention and being compliant with the WADA Code was a long process which required several exchanges of documentation. On May 28th 2010, the DOC confirmed to Government that it had met its affiliated National Associations on April 29, 2010 for the purpose of updating them on the requirements of the WADA Code and their obligations to be in compliance. All National Associations, the DOC’s correspondence indicated, had committed to adopt the code and to comply accordingly and that some of these associations had amended their constitution while others were in the process of doing so.
This was part of the awareness that the Government of Dominica started through the DOC to ensure that we began the ball rolling towards the full ratification of the UNECSO Convention.
I am happy to report that Dominica ratified the UNESCO Convention against Doping in Sport and is in compliance with the World Anti Doping Code. As a result, we can now benefit from the various education programmes available towards the advocacy to eliminate doping in sports.
Towards ensuring that we continue to benefit from the education programmes and are able to build that awareness, the Government of Dominica has included in its national budget, contributions to WADA and RADO and has been up to date over the years with its contributions to both WADA and RADO of annual contributions of EC $7558.00 and EC $8151.00 respectively.
We continue to work with our NADO to facilitate programmes done in conjunction with RADO and will seek to build on this working relationship to ensure the full effect of the educational programmes in pursuit of obtaining clean athletes following local testing exercises.
As is evident, this fight stems from the very top; WADA, whose responsibility it is to promote, coordinate and monitor the fight against doping in sports in all its forms through its affiliate agencies such as RADO and NADO, is ensuring that the message of eliminating doping is carried through and reaches all stakeholders.
One may be asking: “Why this wide spread education awareness campaign?” The use of drugs to enhance performance is considered to be unethical since it provides the athlete with an unfair advantage; however, the main reasons for these intense awareness programmes are because of the health risks associated with these performance-enhancing drugs, the equality of opportunities for athletes and the exemplary effect of drug-free sport for the public.
To put it in simple terms, the use of the enhancing substances is cheating and is against the spirit of sport, and is detrimental to the health of athletes.
The younger generation looks at the athletes as role models so the use of enhancing substances can have a ripple effect that can create generations of substance enhancing users. It is therefore incumbent on us as stakeholders to ensure that advocacy continues towards the complete elimination of doping in sport.
The associated health risks to the athlete must form part of the awareness building and advocacy. The athlete and stakeholders must be made aware of the life-threatening impacts of doping such as heart diseases, overgrowth of hands, feet and face, increased heart rate and blood pressure, insomnia, nausea, dehydration, muscle cramps, blood volume depletion. Also increased pain threshold and failure to recognize injury, illusion of athletic prowess beyond inherent ability, reduced bone density, weight gain, muscle breakdown, menstrual irregularities and sexual dysfunction are among the many frightening health risks associated with doping. This is enough evidence for us all to join the awareness and advocacy campaign to ensure that we save lives of generations of athletes and maintain the integrity of sports.
The athletes must also be a part of this awareness for they must be made aware of what is expected of them in this whole equation. The issue of how anti-doping violations occur must be part of the awareness programme. For it must be made know to the athlete that he is in violation when:
- A prohibited substance is found in his specimen
- A prohibited substance or method has been used
- An athletes refuses to submit or evades sample collections
- An athlete fails to provide whereabouts information
- There is trafficking in prohibited substances or methods
- Tampering or an attempt of tamper with doping control
As agencies responsible for this awareness, the process would be incomplete if all the information and measures required to ensure the preventative aspects are not fully put in place. For instance, there needs to be regular updates of the prohibited list and the continuous review of and publication of the international standards relating to doping in sport.
The area of continued research must be given attention - research which complies with internationally recognized ethical practices. When this is done, the various agencies must ensure that the results on all anti-doping research are shared in order to ensure that there is full education.
As you go through this workshop period, let me wish all the participants well and do ensure that the awareness programmes will be to the benefit of sport.
I give the full support of my Ministry to the awareness campaign and look forward to continuing our work with RADO and the NADO to ensure that sport participation is done on a level playing field where all parties will have an equal opportunity to achieve success.
Best wishes to all for a successful workshop.