New group brings more athletes into ASADA’s operations

6 May 2019
Triple Olympic gold medallist Petria Thomas has joined the Athletes' Advisory Group, which was launched at the University of Canberra today.

A level playing field. Healthy pathways. The need to bridge the gap. These were just some of the reasons current and former athletes joined the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority’s (ASADA) newly established Athletes Advisory Group (AAG) which was launched at the University of Canberra today.

Women’s rugby league legend and Chair of Australian Rugby League Indigenous Council Katrina Fanning joined the group of eight former and current athletes with an interest in making sure that the pathways in sport are healthy.

“For me, sport’s one of the greatest things that I’ve had an opportunity to do. I think Australia holds a very special place in our communities and it’s important to me that these pathways are healthy and that the playing field is as level as it can be,” Ms Fanning says.

“It’s important to hear from people at the centrepiece of our sports sector, our athletes. We expect a lot out of them, they perform at a high level, they work very hard, it’s important to make sure that in areas like anti-doping that their voice is heard.

“It’s important that they can be assured that the processes are fair and when they are competing and winning those medals, championships and premierships that they know that they have done it fairly and when they’ve had other results, that their best result is a fair and just one.”

CEO David Sharpe says ASADA is committed to integrating the athletes’ voice into all aspects of the organisation’s operations.

“This is the result of a broader ASADA strategy developed over the past 12 months to work with athletes with one key goal to develop more advocates for anti-doping,” Mr Sharpe says.

Long jumper Bronwyn Thompson, who finished fourth at the Olympics behind three Russian athletes who tested positive to steroids after the event, says she is keen to help make it a level playing field for all.

“I’m inspired to contribute to ASADA to make sure that other athletes in the future don’t go through what I have,” says the Commonwealth Games gold medallist and Commonwealth and Australian record holder.

“And that more Australian athletes can be on a podium and win medals and enjoying their athletics or sporting career.”

Dual Paralympic wheelchair rugby gold medallist Chris Bond joined the AAG to make sure Paralympic athletes’ views are considered.

“I wanted there to be a representative of Paralympic athletes when it comes to sport integrity,” he says. “I believe Paralympic athletes have unique issues which need to be addressed and I want to make sure our voice is heard. I want to make a real difference.”

The aim for all members of the AAG is to help bridge the gap between ASADA and athletes.

Former National Rugby League player Tom Symonds says he was excited to contribute “in shaping the new direction in ASADA”.

“As a current Rugby League Players Association member I hope to work with athletes and get some more buy-in from them,” he says.

Australian women’s rugby 7s Olympic gold medallist Alicia Quirk says she’s passionate about having a clean and level playing field in sport.

“As athletes, we’re the biggest stakeholders in sport, and I feel it’s important that we have a voice and opinion, that we make informed decisions, and make sure sport is nice and clean and fair.”

The establishment of ASADA’s AAG is in line with a current trend across anti-doping organisations globally to work alongside athletes, allowing them to have a greater input into the running of sport.

Mr Sharpe says the AAG will help ASADA to understand the pressures athletes’ face so the Agency can tailor its messages, education, and future anti-doping strategies.

It follows the introduction by ASADA earlier this year of 16 Athlete Education Presenters to deliver anti-doping education to their peers.

ASADA’s AAG is made up of the following current and former athletes:

Petria Thomas: 3 times Olympic Swimming Gold Medallist, currently Gymnastics Australia General Manager High Performance.

Katrina Fanning: 26 tests for the Australian Women’s Rugby League team, currently Chair of the ARL Indigenous Council and Canberra Raiders Board member.

Michael Gallagher: Paralympic Gold Medallist at the 2008 and 2012 games. Tested positive to EPO in Italy in July 2016 and was disqualified from competing at the Rio Paralympics.

Chris Bond: 2 times Paralympic Gold Medallist in Wheelchair Rugby.

Bronwyn Thompson: Commonwealth Games gold medallist in long jump, Commonwealth and Australian record holder.

Alicia Quirk: Olympic Gold Medallist in 7s rugby at the Rio Olympics.

Tom Symonds: Former Roosters and Manly NRL player.

Chloe Esposito: Olympic Gold Medallist in Modern Pentathlon.