Hundreds of athletes competing at the current IAAF World Junior Championships in Beijing have come out and shown their support for drug free athletics by visiting the IAAF Anti-Doping Outreach Programme, and at the same time have heard from some stars of the sport about the importance of the subject.
Based on the original World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) model, the Outreach Programme aims to raise athlete awareness of anti-doping issues through an interactive computer quiz which is available in 14 different languages. Athletes who play and win the quiz have the opportunity to win some great prizes provided by Mizuno and then sign a pledge of their continued commitment to compete drug free and honestly. The pledge is hanging as a large and impressive banner at the athlete warm-up area and serves as a great visual reminder of the commitment of these young up-and-coming athletes.
Staff from the IAAF, the Chinese Anti-Doping Agency, as well as WADA were available each day to answer any questions the athletes might have about anti-doping issues. Also on hand to help the athletes through the programme was three-time Olympic champion and IAAF Ambassador Marie-José Pérec (FRA).
Marie-José who attended each day of the programme acted as a great encouragement to the athletes by aiding them in the quiz and discussing general anti-doing issues. “I think it is really important that athletes are able to have their questions answered. At these championships we have so many young athletes from all over the world and I would like to let them know that there is no need to take drugs to succeed. It has been a great experience to see how much they already know about anti-doping but we can always do more education”.
Marie-José and many other former champions such as Wilson Kipketer (DEN), Stéphane Diagana (FRA), Tegla Lourope and Deon Hemmings-McCatty have all lent their support or image to the programme and are able to show the junior athletes that it is possible to reach the very pinnacle of the sport without the need to use prohibited substances.
Whilst visiting the Outreach Programme on Friday evening, IAAF President Lamine Diack stressed the importance of education in the IAAF anti-doping efforts and called upon the elite athletes to play a part in this endeavour.
“It is very important that all the starts of our sport, in particular our IAAF Ambassadors and our Athletes’ Commission Members help to speak out against doping and to lead the way for the youth of today. Education initiatives such as this IAAF Outreach Programme are exactly what we must continue to do,” said Mr. Diack.
The IAAF is encouraged by such a wonderful response from the athletes of the 2006 World Junior Championships, and the way in which they have embraced the anti-doping message and education programme. Teams from many different nations have gathered together helping one another to complete the quiz and come to better understand the doping requirements. We know that the majority of our sport is free from doping, and if our Youth and Junior athletes continue with the commitment and enthusiasm they have shown in Beijing the sport will only continue to get better.
Chris Butler for the IAAF