'It's never nice having doubts': The safe place to call out doping
Christian Day wants rugby dressing rooms to be safe places for those who need to call out doping. The former Northampton Saints and Sale Sharks star, who won two Premiership titles in a decorated career, did not have concerns about rivals or teammates doping during his time at the top of the sport.
But the 38-year-old believes cultures and structures need to be in place for teammates to blow the whistle should they need to. “From a team sport point of view, you would hope you would never have to report a teammate. You would hope that that doesn’t happen, but I guess that is the reality of it,” said Day.
“There is a real band of brothers type of mentality in rugby. You go through thick and thin together and I guess outing a teammate would be very difficult to do, but that’s comparable with any sport.
“It’s never nice having doubts about another athlete. It’s never nice doubting a performance, doubting a time, doubting a lift, but ultimately when you speak about empowering the athletes, you’re protecting your own sport at the end of the day.
“Scandals affect sport in many ways but it affects the very ethos of the sport. Less people will be interested, less people will have their kids taking part in that sport, less eyeballs are on it, less money comes on it and the sport starts to die. It’s so crucial that we believe what we’re watching. You have got to get people wanting to have their sport clean. That’s the ultimate goal.”
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Day is a senior member of the Rugby Players Association and UK Anti-Doping’s (UKAD’s) Athlete Commission, set up to ensure that the voices of athletes are heard in regards to doping in sport. One project run by UKAD is Protect Your Sport, a service that allows anyone to anonymously report concerns of athletes doping or people potentially supplying athletes with drugs. UKAD’s whistleblowing policy confirms that all informants will be kept anonymous throughout the process.
Just as British athletes in countless sports prepare to meet challenges on the field of play, Day believes they need to be equipped to do their bit to ensure a level playing field too. With the Covid-19 pandemic posing challenges to the testing structure and competition returning to normal, the fight against doping is an ongoing one.
Day said: “We are very lucky in this country that we have an anti-doping organisation like UKAD battling doping in sport. They are going to have their work cut out. They do thousands of tests a year, a huge amount of work goes on behind the scenes not just in terms of testing but in terms of intel, in terms of education and we are fortunate to be in the position we are with a well-funded, well-resourced organisation compared to many other National Anti-Doping Organisations.
“Professional sport will always push the boundaries, it will always seek to innovate and seek to advance. That goes for the people that think doping is a part of that story. There will be ever-increasing levels of complexity and new substances found, new ways of gaining an unfair advantage.
“That is the challenge that will always be there for anti-doping organisations. They are competing against elite-level athletes, elite-level scientists, elite-level chemists who will push the boundaries every step of the way to try and get people an unfair advantage.
“That challenge will never, ever go away. It’s something that we need to accept and it’s something we need to keep developing the defence against and keep coming back to it to make sure the playing field stays level.”
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Your identity will be kept 100 per cent confidential throughout.
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