Interview with Ms Kady Tounkara – WADA Education Committee Chair

You were a top athlete and are now a leader of an anti-doping organisation. We would like to have your impressions of this event and the educational programme you lead in cooperation with ISF?

Well, thank you very much for having me. It’s a great honour to be here. I feel like this event is so exciting. As you said, I was a former athlete. I did compete in school sports in France when I was younger. And I’m a three-time French national champion, but I never got the opportunity to attend such an event. So, I can just imagine what it is like to be under 15 and be able to travel to another country and meet other young athletes at this age. I think this is just an incredible opportunity. I think the difference between my time and this time is that we can no longer ignore the wellbeing of athletes, and that entails being able to educate them about very important topics such as anti-doping harassment and abuse or career transition. So, I believe that it is no longer possible to hold such an event without having educational stands or educational opportunities there also for athletes. We know that for an athlete to perform and to have great result, they also need to be fit mentally and to have all the right conditions and educational background to exceed on the field of play.

So, I believe these are the times we are in.

I am very excited to be here and to speak on behalf of education, especially clean sport, and anti-doping. With this age group, we really focus on values. We want to focus on promoting values while they’re here.

Why do they love sports so much? It is because of the very important values that sports entail, such as respect, inclusion, equity. Those are the key messages we want to bring to them and to speak about clean sport and playing sports too.

We know in your comments at the school sport forum yesterday, you underlined that WADA was focused on prevention. Could you outline this approach and how ISF can work together with WADA on this mission?

We now have a new standalone Education Department created at WADA because WADA wants to also focus on prevention. Especially with young athletes where we can instil the values of sport at an early age. We want athletes before getting tested to be educated. It is so important. We have a lot of tools that are being created and that are available, ready for this age group. For example, we now have on the Anti-Doping Education and Learning platform (ADEL) by WADA which includes education programmes for this age group. For example, ADEL for Talented Athletes – they can find on ADEL, they can go online, be engaged, educated about anti-doping and learn how to protect themselves. Prevention is key and is a key priority of WADA. I believe all stakeholders or sports event organisers such as you, the ISF, are now understanding that is crucial. And this is a collaborative work. It is a collaborative effort.  It’s not only the work of WADA, but also of the sport’s movement, and of public authorities to ensure that we can educate the youth about clean sport.

Do you believe that youth, especially the ones that are not engaged with sport know of WADA?

I don’t think it’s really important for youth at this age to understand the role of WADA. I think that’s not the goal. Ultimately, they need to understand that they need to protect themselves, that they will have phases in their life, in their career, if they want to pursue sport where they can be tempted by doping for many reasons. Scientific research has been able to depict those stages where an athlete can be vulnerable to doping in sport. We want to protect them for when this time comes in their career. And that can be because they’re injured as one example. That can be because they’re changing categories, especially when it comes to youth moving to seniors as another example. And it can be at different stages where they can be tempted. What we want to tell them is to be careful, be protected, educate yourself, to put that in your wallet, put that in your backpack, you know, as you would your water bottle. You need to also put education in to protect yourself. And that’s what we want to tell them at this age. And we want to tell them, enjoy sport, because that’s what they’re here for. Enjoy sport but be safe, be careful and protect yourself.

Do you believe ISF, and WADA can further work together such as with older age categories?

Yes, definitely. Not only between WADA and the ISF. I’ll just mention that the tools that we have, the Sport Values in Every Classroom, done in collaboration with different stakeholders, including UNESCO, the International Olympic Committee, and the International Paralympic Committee. And so that’s available for children from 8 to 12 years old. And this tool is available for School Teachers and Educators, they can use it in a classroom format outside of the classroom to engage the kids on clean sport, but really with having values as the main learning.

For the age group a bit older than that, we also have the WADA’s Anti-Doping Education and Learning Platform (ADEL) for Talented Athletes, as I mentioned before. But different stakeholders also have different initiatives. The role of WADA is to be an enabler in this sense. Giving the opportunity and support for stakeholders to also design their own tools. The International Standard for Education just came into place this year as part of World Anti-Doping Program. This requires every signatory of the World Anti-Doping Code to develop an education plan, to deliver it and to be able to monitor and evaluate it. We want to enable them to do that. Stakeholders also have the freedom to design their own education programmes and tools, and that’s fine, too. It’s not about always using the WADA tools. WADA tools are available, they are free, and they can be customised. They can be translated into many languages if stakeholders need. We want to enable the creation and the delivery of educational material.

How do you see generally the future cooperation with ISF? And what would be the next step for WADA and ISF?

I really hope this collaboration goes on. I’m very excited to be here. I would like to thank ISF for the invitation and for taking the wellbeing of young talented athletes into consideration during this event. I think this is really important that we collaborate in the future. I would like to congratulate them for also having an Outreach booth. For having an educational stand with educational material about anti-doping. I think this is really the way forward. I think every event organiser should have such initiatives. I’m really looking forward to a fruitful collaboration in the future.

We from the WADA Education end will be looking forward to working with ISF in the future to ensure that they have all the material that they need to create awareness and sensitise youth, because we know that it’s really important at this age to be engaged on this topic. Also, we know that we all have a common goal, to ensure that those children can compete clean, that they can grow into healthy and amazing human beings who can have a positive impact on society through sport. So that’s really the goal of everyone. We’re looking forward to continuing to collaborate.