Andy Parkinson has been the Chief Executive of UK Anti-Doping since its inception in 2009 and will provide the opening welcome at Tackling Doping in Sport, which takes place at Twickenham Stadium near London, 14-15 March 2012. The annual conference brings together anti-doping experts from around the world and is organised by World Sports Law Report in association with UK Anti-Doping and sports law specialist Squire Sanders. For more information, visit www.cecileparkconferences.com/tackling-doping-sport-2012
In this short interview, Parkinson outlines his views on the current review of the World Anti-Doping Code (the 'Code'); UK Anti-Doping's activities in the run-up to the London 2012 Olympics; sanctioning athletes; the Code's provisions regarding 'no significant fault'; whether a level playing field is in operation for anti-doping internationally and more.
WSLR: "You are providing the 'welcome' at the opening of Tackling Doping in Sport 2012. What are your aims at the conference?"
Parkinson: "My aim is to set the context for the two days and to try and promote discussion around the future of anti-doping."
WSLR: "Will you be outlining how UK Anti-Doping has prepared for London 2012?"
Parkinson: "I will touch on that, especially with the wide ranging international audience that we've got. I don't want to dwell too much on what UK Anti-Doping has done, but certainly we want to touch on the core activities we've got in the coming year, especially around London 2012, and also focus on how we want to provide WADAi with comprehensive feedback on the Codeii for the forthcoming review."
WSLR: "There should be a lot of discussion around the World Anti-Doping Code Review, given that comments have to be received by WADA by 15 March - the second day of Tackling Doping in Sport"
Parkinson: "That's right. A lot of our thinking on this started at around this time last year, when we conducted a number of Code reviews around the round tableiii at Tackling Doping in Sport 2011. They weren't quite labelled as such, but that started to inform our thinking. A lot of the people in the audience will have inputted in one way or another into our final submission."
WSLR: "What do you think that the main topics of discussion will be at Tackling Doping in Sport 2012?"
Parkinson: "The Code review, for sure, London 2012 and - I think - we would like to see how hosting a major event such as the Games can improve and enhance collective anti-doping activities, whether that's just in the UK or internationally. It would be nice to see some tangible benefits of London 2012 from an anti-doping perspective, whether it's our 'Win Clean'iv campaign and how that's started to gather momentum worldwide, or whether it's just sharing best practice from NADOv to NADO, or country to country"
WSLR: "What is UK Anti-Doping hoping to take away from Tackling Doping in Sport 2012?"
Parkinson: "What I like about Tackling Doping in Sport is that the conference just has such a diverse agenda which, if you're an administrator like me, is really motivating, whether it's hearing the lawyers talking about the legal challenges, the scientists talking about some of the issues that they have and then being able to put all of that together to come up with a strategy about how to look at the future of anti-doping. We've got law enforcement on the agenda, major events, athlete issues - which is terrific. We're hoping to have a lot of the domestic anti-doping administrators there as well, so that we can really collectively upskill our programmes."
WSLR: "Which speakers are you most looking forward to hearing at Tackling Doping in Sport 2012?"
Parkinson: "One of the things that I enjoy about Tackling Doping in Sport and I'd like to see more of is the last session on the first day, which is the athlete's perspective. I think that the work that Tom Fordyce did on whereaboutsvi leads really nicely into a high-level conversation with Adam, John and Ianvii on how all these rules, regulations and programmes that we put in place affect the customer.
Another thing that I'm particularly looking forward to is the more interactive aspects of the programme - the demonstration of the doping control processviii, ADAMSix and the new initiative around the mock anti-doping proceedings which I think is perfect. If people can gain a little bit of insight into how the system works, my hope is that they'll have more confidence in it for the future."
It's easy for us, because we're doing doping control all the time, working with ADAMS all the time and we're in proceedings all the time. However, we have to remember that a lot of people aren't in that situation. So to give people a bit of practical insight into the application of those three areas is really valuable - in a nice environment as well, where we're not infringing on people's human rights by using 'real' examples."
WSLR: "Should the Code be adapted to allow national bodies to ban athletes from the Olympics?"
Parkinson: "Regarding the sanctions discussion, I would say firstly that it's extremely complex, it's a conversation that has been going on since 2001/2, when we had the first incarnation of the Code. Whatever is decided by the Foundation Boardx with the 303 signatoriesxi inputting into that, we all need to apply consistently. That, to me, is the success of the Code, in that it does try to promote uniformity and consistent application."
WSLR: "Is it right to sanction an athlete when a substance enters their body through no fault of their own?"
Parkinson: "Yes, as intent is only one part of the issue. Ultimately, if an athlete is found to have a substance that enhances their performance in their system, it doesn't matter whether they intended to dope or not - they still have the potential to enhance their performance, thereby putting the clean athletes they are racing against at a disadvantage. I think where the intent comes in is where we start looking at 'no significant fault'xii etc. It's very difficult to prove intent, as many of us know through various proceedings. It's almost impossible for anti-doping organisations to prove how a substance entered an athlete's system. So, therefore, the burden of proof has to rest with the athlete, otherwise we get to a situation which is unworkable.
I do think that we need to try and ensure that the rules are fair and proportionate all the way through and that needs to be balanced with the fact that we don't want to open too many doors for the more sophisticated challenges to get a lesser sanction than is warranted."
WSLR: "Should the Code's rules on strict liability and 'no significant fault' be amended?"
Parkinson: "I'm sure that the Code review will look at strict liability as a starter, because that has to be discussed. I don't necessarily think that it should be changed, but I think that it's a good discussion to have. In terms of 'no significant fault' and 'no fault', then yes, of course it needs to be looked at. The decision as to whether there are any substantial changes rests with the Foundation Board, but certainly we as an organisation are better placed to provide input into that having had the experience of being the results management authority for the UK for the past two years."
WSLR: "SWhat are the main challenges for anti-doping ahead of London 2012?"
Parkinson: "The main challenges for us are making sure that we get to every single British athlete competing at the Games from an education perspective - making sure that they are fully aware of their responsibilities, rights and the fact that they can compete and win clean. Secondly, making sure that the rest of the world is doing the same! That's what we hear a lot from our athletes - about whether there is a 'level playing field'. The ambition for a level playing field is that we need to be able to provide the tools for international athletes to make informed decisions. Thirdly, making sure that we continue to deliver 'business as usual' for the programme that we run outside of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, which we're very mindful of, as we're playing much more of a supportive role around London 2012 and need to make sure that our programme continues to operate. Because, from our perspective although London 2012 is a major event, it is just one major event in an ongoing calendar"
WSLR: "Thank you. We're looking forward to your contribution at Tackling Doping in Sport."
Parkinson: "The environment that Tackling Doping in Sport has created is a really nice mix between high-level, detailed experts and general administrators coming from all corners of the globe. I think that provides an excellent opportunity to share knowledge, best practice and to collectively upskill each other. I have yet to be at a conference where there is a greater diversity of delegates, enabling us all to learn from each other."