This episode explores cheating methods in Parasport. I'm joined by former GB Paralympian, and current PhD researcher at the University of Birmingham, Ali Jawad, to explore this area in more depth.
On the show, Ali explains why classification may be the biggest threat to the integrity of the Paralympics. The controversial and dangerous method of boosting is discussed, followed by an assessment of doping in Parasport. Finally, Ali explains why athletes need to have a greater say in the regulation of anti-doping.
This episode was recorded in April 2022 ahead of the high-performance sport series and while recording the Accessercise episode with Ali.
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High-Performance Sport: Cheating
Speaker: Dr Christopher Brown (Presenter – University of Hertfordshire, UK)
Speaker: Ali Jawad (Participant – GB Paralympian and PhD candidate, University of Birmingham, UK)
[00:00:00] Dr Christopher Brown: Welcome to the Disability Sport Info Show, the podcast that explores academic knowledge about disability sport. My name is Dr. Chris Brown and I'm an academic with an expertise in disability sport. Each episode I focus on a specific topic of disability sport and speak to academic experts to understand the area more depth.
So join me and listen to the Disability Sport Info Show to get an expert view on disability sport.
Hello, Listener. Welcome to another episode of the Disability Sport Info Show. This episode explores cheating methods in Parasport. My guide is former Paralympian, Ali Jawad, who is conducting a PhD in this area. I caught up with Ali to find out more.
Thanks very so much for joining Ali. Really great to have you here today and I'm really interested in your PhD work. I understand it's about anti-doping in Paralympic sport.
So probably just to start off, would you be able to talk about what your PhD research is about and why it's important?
[00:01:00] Ali Jawad: The PhD is a focus of not only anti-doping, but other potential Paralympic cheating methods in Parasport. What I mean by that is classification and boosting. So it measures substance doping, classification doping, and also boosting in Parasport.
It's trying to basically find data to give us a prevalence rate because as you're probably aware, when it comes to anti-doping, it's all focused on Olympic and non-disabled sport. There's never been any studies done on the prevalence of anti-doping or even cheating in Parasport.
And I felt that was a huge gap that needed to be addressed with how popular the Paralympic Games are at the moment.
[00:01:43] Dr Christopher Brown: And why do you think there hasn't been any studies on Paralympic sport and doping and cheating?
[00:01:50] Ali Jawad: That's a good question. You have to remember the Paralympic Games are still in its infancy compared to the Olympics.
Therefore anti-doping infrastructure and resources have been hard to come by for the IPC, historically, and they've grown every single year to make sure their resources are more robust and all their policies are up to date. But you have to remember, to be able to test and monitor and educate; it's a lot of financial resources that you need to do that. And, unfortunately, they haven't got the resources like the IOC, so it's taken a very long time to get to a position where they can police it properly. And that's fine because as an organisation they're gonna keep growing and I think they're gonna improve that as they go along.
[00:02:34] Dr Christopher Brown: Okay. And just whilst we're on this topic, so obviously you are a Paralympian. Former Paralympian or current Paralympian still?
[00:02:41] Ali Jawad: I'd say an indefinite break, but I've been to four Games, so I guess, I've been around for a long time.
[00:02:48] Dr Christopher Brown: Do you feel like you were playing on the level playing field?
[00:02:50] Ali Jawad: I think in powerlifting, specifically, I've always said no because the other countries I'm up against, haven't got the kind of anti-doping infrastructure that we have in the UK now. They haven't got the resources like we have here. So we are very lucky to have UKAD and they're work is very well funded and I feel like are one of the gold standard anti-doping agencies in the world.
And the countries that I'm up against they lack them sort of resource. So they're more high risk to potentially cheat if they wanted to. Now, for me it's, you can blame the system for not being robust enough. Or you can blame the system for not helping these countries more to make sure they have got things in place, or you can blame the country itself about the lack of appetite to invest. It's a whole, people have to work together to make sure that countries are adhering to the international standards set by WADA.
[00:03:47] Dr Christopher Brown: You talked about for your PhD, you're looking into, I think three different kind of areas, probably substance abuse, boosting, and classification. Now, this might be a tricky question to answer but what do you feel is the area where there's most cause for concern?
[00:03:59] Ali Jawad: This probably sounds weird from an anti-doping PhD, but it's probably classification.
I think classification is the biggest threat to the integrity of the Paralympic Games because it's fundamental to classify athletes in their classes. And if you get that wrong the whole infrastructure falls, and I think until we get a number of the prevalence rate of intentional misrepresentation, we're not gonna know how big the problem is.
And two, what policies can we put in place to make sure that we are catching people. And unfortunately, at the moment it's difficult because you can't prove it without, you can't prove it. It's hard to prove. Faking their impairment. It's so hard. And I have got sympathy for the IPC, but they've known about it for a long time and had time to put things in place.
So it's about time that they use research to drive their thinking. And they are. They've got loads of studies out there in terms of the classification system itself, but not on the prevalence of IM.
[00:05:00] Dr Christopher Brown: Okay. And for those who aren't aware of this issue, what is it about classification that potentially causes some difficulties in understanding the integrity of the sport or fairness?
[00:05:09] Ali Jawad: Yeah, so in Paralympic sport, athletes are put into impairment classes that deem them as a similar ability, depending on their impairment. Now some athletes potentially could manipulate their impairment to classify in a favourable class. So they're at the kind of, when it comes to a spectrum, they're at the more abled spectrum in that class to give them more advantage of placing higher.
And that is called intentional misrepresentation which is not allowed. However, to actually measure that is, it's pretty difficult.
[00:05:49] Dr Christopher Brown: We’ve got individuals with impairments. We're trying to make sure that it's a level playing field for all. How do the classifiers go about trying to make sure everyone is in the right class?
[00:05:58] Ali Jawad: Yeah, so athletes are, depending on your impairment, so someone like me being an amputee, I don't have to be classified because my legs are not gonna grow and my impairment is not gonna change. So I've got a permanent classification. But in other sports, the classification process, you go for classification during competition.
So for example, maybe two days before the competition you'll be called for classification. You go through these assessments and then the classifiers will deem what category you're gonna be in based on the assessments. The issue is that some impairments can manipulate their level of impairment on the day by purposely being more fatigued.
So they score low in the impairments because they know the classification's coming. They can try everything they can to not try during the assessments to make sure that their scores are much lower than they would've been if they were, you know, if they were trying. So it's very hard for the classifier to understand somebody's intent and effort with these assessments.
You have to put into context. It's hard to accuse somebody of manipulating their impairment. It's a very sensitive issue. It's how you have that conversation with somebody that you've deemed them to, potentially, try and deceive the classifier. So it's a very difficult conversation to have and also it's very hard to prove without a reasonable level of doubt.
What I'm trying to do is, one, try to find out the prevalence of that to see if the problem is big, and two, the IPC has worked for the last, 10, 15 years to make sure they transfer to a evidence-based classification system where they use science to make sure these structures are in place.
And I'm hoping in the next maybe five, 10 years, every Parasport will have that structure in place to make it a little bit easier.
[00:07:56] Dr Christopher Brown: Are there any particular impairment types that are more contentious, controversial when it comes to classification? You mentioned obviously as an amputee it's pretty clear cut, that's obvious, but are there any particular impairment groups in Parasport that is harder to classify?
[00:08:11] Ali Jawad: So for example anything that's neural based. We know of anything that's neural based, if you’re very, very tired, you're not gonna score highly on them tests. But you can make yourself tired because you know the tests are coming. So from my view, it's like how do you counter anybody trying to make themselves more tired or how do you know they've done that on purpose?
It's a minefield to be honest. And I feel very sorry for the IPC because they have to factor in so many different impairments and so many moving parts and it's very hard to come up with a system. The Paralympic Games has accelerated, the classification system hasn't gone with it.
And that's where the big, big gap is. And they have to address it quite quick because, you know, the Paralympic Games now is so big that the media coverage is vast, and they're probably a huge scandal away from being big. And that's the issue. That's what I'm afraid of.
[00:09:05] Dr Christopher Brown: For those who weren't aware, there was a big scandal in 2000 with the Spanish men's basketball team.
Essentially, the Spanish men's basketball team, they won gold. And a lot of them faked having an intellectual impairment, which ultimately led to intellectual impairments being banned from the Paralympics until 2012, which is odd because it was non-disabled persons basically counting against intellectual impairments. And intellectual impaired athletes were therefore excluded and discriminated against because of someone else making the cheating incident.
[00:09:36] Ali Jawad: But also you can ask the IPC, why wasn't a system in place to make sure that there's a way for them to come back. And it took them 12 years for that to happen. That's a long time. That one mistake you should have learned from, rather than them taking 12 years to address it. It goes both ways.
[00:09:57] Dr Christopher Brown: Yeah. And also now intellectual impairments are allowed, but only in certain sports. And it's probably only three or four I think from what I remember.
[00:10:05] Ali Jawad: On paper's there’s only been two he cases of IM in history, so the basketball team and a volleyball player in 2020.
So two cases ever, but we know the number's probably much higher than that. I think it’s the actual assessments that are the problem and not the practitioners. The practitioners, they're highly qualified individuals. The IPC won't just employ anybody.
Basically, I think it's the actual consensus of what assessments to use to measure the extent of that impairment and how it affects them competing. And I think at the moment, there are a few kind of improvements that can be made which they're probably looking into. So yeah, I think it's gonna improve.
But it's just gonna take a while so they can get that data.
[00:10:49] Dr Christopher Brown: I watched the Panorama programme I think it was last year. Which talked about classification. I think it was just before the Paralympics, which makes sense. And there are some examples of athletes who've been reclassified in the different classes.
So if we see that, should we be suspicious or is it just one of those things that an impairment can change and the classification system may change and you just happen to move up and down? What's your thoughts on that, Ali?
[00:11:13] Ali Jawad: That's probably the most sensitive area because when you get reclassified, you don't wanna automatically give that athlete suspicion that they faked their impairment before.
And unfortunately, with some impairments they’re, one, acute. So they can change. Like, on any day their ability changes too. So I think there needs to be something in place to have a scientific approach to the classification system, you factor that in as much as you can. I know a lot of athletes from their experience, they get absolutely ripped apart when they're reclassified and people think, wait a minute, so what did you do before?
And the answer is actually absolutely nothing. It's just my impairment has changed, or the classifier sees things differently than before. There's a lot of things that go into classification and it's not the same classifier.
[00:12:03] Dr Christopher Brown: I was just gonna say. Yeah. Presumably it's not always the same one, isn't it?
[00:12:04] Ali Jawad: It's not the same one. So every classifier is gonna be different. It's gonna be more subjective. It's gonna be based on somebody's opinion, based on the assessments done. And that's where there needs to be a more, as I said, scientific approach where you based on actual data rather than somebody's opinion, which kind of differs when you're seeing different people.
[00:12:27] Dr Christopher Brown: Yeah. And as part of your PhD you said one of your kind of focuses is to get a prevalence rate, which is probably gonna be quite tricky. Early ideas of how you might try and catch some of the prevalence rates? What's your thought processes there?
[00:12:39] Ali Jawad: Yeah, so we know that doping in non-disabled sport, to try and get prevalence data is really hard because not many athletes are gonna admit to cheating to you.
Because they think you’re trying to get them. However, there has been some models where you've got like randomised question models. You've got the crosswise models, which is used by WADA to try and get prevalence rates where it keeps the identity of that individual completely anonymous.
So I wanna use the crosswise model to try and collect that data and make sure that, athletes that are participating, can't be identified, not even by me. So they can be as honest as possible without actually, not giving me any information that will identify them. So I'm hoping that athletes feel safe enough to tell me the truth, but also the crosswise model use of probability rather than actual facts in terms of people saying their experience to me.
So I'm hoping that because we're not asking for people's experiences to be written down, I'm hoping that the athlete community engages and actually, you know, tells me the truth. But we'll see. I know how sensitive and hard it is, especially for Parasport, which hasn't been exposed to the scrutiny of the Olympics.
[00:13:48] Dr Christopher Brown: Are you looking at current participants, In terms of trying to understand prevalence rate? Are you gonna contact the participants like everyone, directly? Or are you gonna go to organisations? Are you gonna go through the anti-doping agencies? How are you going to administer your collection method?
[00:14:02] Ali Jawad: Yeah, so I'm gonna try use varying methods.
So I've got my athlete network, which is quite extensive. I'm obviously gonna try and use anti-doping agencies that see value in the work that I'm doing. And hopefully they share it amongst their athlete community. It's available in five different languages. So I'm trying to get it a global reach, rather than just a national reach.
Because it's important that you get varying experiences and different cultures and different mindsets and, yeah, the work to try and get it into five different languages was quite interesting, because obviously I only speak two.
[00:14:36] Dr Christopher Brown: So what are the five languages? Obviously, we've got English?
[00:14:41] Ali Jawad: Yeah. English, Portuguese, Spanish, French and Russian.
[00:14:44] Dr Christopher Brown: Okay. Yeah. So we're covering quite a lot of the globe. Yeah. Wow. Yeah. That's pretty intense. Trying to get that all sorted.
[00:14:52] Ali Jawad: Yeah. Imagine the data analysis after.
[00:14:57] Dr Christopher Brown: Yeah. And I imagine your ethics procedure must be pretty complex as well for the data collection.
[00:15:03] Ali Jawad: It was quite rigid, especially with the nature of the study. But we managed to get it over the line. I had to compromise on certain bits, but it's understandable because of the nature of what I'm trying to measure.
[00:15:14] Dr Christopher Brown: Yeah, no, definitely. For those who have experienced ethics and data collection, it's not always the easiest process, but for obvious reasons, and it's very important.
Okay, so we talked about classification. You also mentioned something called boosting. What do you mean by boosting, what is it, and why is it a dangerous issue in terms of integrity, et cetera?
[00:15:32] Ali Jawad: Yeah, so athletes with spinal cord injuries, because of their impairment, they have something that's called autonomic dysreflexia, which is a rapid increase in blood pressure.
That could happen at any time, could happen naturally, however, there's been situations when athletes have purposely made it happen to improve their performance. And, for me, that's probably the most dangerous way of cheating because to boost or to increase your blood pressure purposefully, you're gonna have to, well, self-harm.
Because you have to cause a stimulus for that to happen. That increases your performance by around 15% in middle and long distance wheelchair racings, it’s been found. So it's not good for strength sports, however, I describe it more as like blood doping where, obviously blood doping gives you about 3% increase in performance. This gives you 15%. So, this is arguably, way, way more beneficial to the athlete in question.
[00:16:37] Dr Christopher Brown: Do we have any documented cases of this, or it's just on the scene that people might have suspected something?
[00:16:42] Ali Jawad: Past prevalence studies have suggested a prevalence rate of between seven and 15%. It's quite high, but them studies were on a low sample and they were also years ago. 2010 was the last one, I think.
[00:16:59] Dr Christopher Brown: Oh, okay. So yeah, 12 years ago. That's three Paralympic cycles, pretty much.
[00:17:04] Ali Jawad: Yeah. So I think, for me, I was like, okay, it's been a long time. Can I add to that prevalence data and can I do it in a different way?
And for me it's very important because boosting is highly dangerous, could be fatal, and it needs to be addressed ASAP before there is a massive scandal.
[00:17:24] Dr Christopher Brown: Yeah, of course. And this is really hard for you to answer, but do you feel it’s potentially gone up or decreased? What would be your kind of instincts based on your experience and knowledge of this area?
[00:17:38] Ali Jawad: So my lived experience suggests that people are doing it. Because people have told me what they've seen. Obviously, I don't know the answer to that question because you can't really base it on your lived experience, what you've been told,but you're not gonna question other people's experiences either.
So that's why it's very important that these prevalence studies are done regularly and consistently to make sure that we have got a number, or even a range, to make sure that we know the problem and how to counter that problem. I think there's still a long way to go before we know the size of both problems really, when it comes to classification and boosting.
People are not asking why is it an anti-doping study and not a cheating study?
I'm trying to maybe think about a more cost effective way to regulate them. And that's where anti-doping comes in, and that's why it's an anti-doping study.
[00:18:37] Dr Christopher Brown: Okay. And so that moves us nicely to the kind of final stream of the cheating, doping area that you're looking at.
So yeah, people may be not aware of classification issue, boosting, but probably they're aware of performance enhancing drugs. So what's the state of play in terms of Parasport and performance enhancing drugs?
[00:18:54] Ali Jawad: So on paper you think it's non-existent because, as you know, WADA only catch 1% when it comes to sanctioning athletes, globally, based on the tests they've done.
And we know that the prevalence rates are between, well, it can range from, five to 40% I think it's probably 15% prevalence rate. That's just from my experiences and everything that I've read. And I guess it's hard to actually define what doping is because a lot of athletes think doping is a different meaning to them.
Some athletes think taking supplements is a doping offense. Some athletes think they’re allowed to push it to the limit and take supplements. So the definition of doping is still very, very confusing, and it's very hard for them studies to actually give a clear definition of what doping is. But WADA are defining it as the occurrence of one or more anti-doping rule violation, which doesn't help things, doesn't help things at all. Even them studies that have been done on prevalence have been very problematic for them because the definition itself is not, it's just not clear.
[00:19:55] Dr Christopher Brown: Yeah. And you talked about this fuzzy definition. What role does culture play as well? I suppose we have a very specific viewpoint. We like to think, certainly, that we're hard on doping in this country, and that we like to have the idea of fair play. Is that consistent across the world, different cultures? Probably not, is it? So how does the role of culture play as well in terms of anti-doping?
[00:20:16] Ali Jawad: I'll say massive. I've talked to other nations and other athletes. Some of their views are crazy. You're thinking, wow, if that's the culture there and that's how they see anti-doping, then we're all in trouble.
That’s why WADA have got an international standard and that international standard has to be adhered to by every country for them to compete. The issue is that international standard for me is still quite low. It's low because other nations just haven't got the resources to up their game.
And it's how you help them countries increase in their resources, but also using more established organisations like anti-doping agencies like the UK, like Australia, like America, to actually buddy up and help these other nations. So it's a lot we need to do and we can't keep blaming the country itself when the international standards, for me, are still quite a low standard for you to adhere to.
There needs to be a lot done.
[00:21:09] Dr Christopher Brown: What processes are there for whistle-blowers or those who suspect something? So, if you were competing now and you saw something, and you thought, this isn't right, what would be the process?
[00:21:20] Ali Jawad: Yeah, so I guess in the new WADA code, they've updated it now to protect whistle-blowers.
I think they've learnt a lot from the lack of willing whistle-blowers that wanted to come forward. And you have to remember, Russia only got exposed because of a whistle-blower. It's not like WADA found Russia were doping. It was a whistle-blower that ousted them out. So WADA knew that they had to protect whistle-blowers in the future code.
So now there's an 11th anti-doping rule violation where you can't threaten or manipulate a whistle-blower because it's a banned offense. Which is great for whistle-blowing. And the fact that whistle-blowers are protected now under the code. The issue is, I always say to whistle-blowers, do not make it public that you're whistle blowing because then WADA can't really protect you.
So do not make it public that you've whistle-blowed. Just follow kind of their guidance and their advice, and make sure it's done in a way that you are comfortable and give them that information and they'll go investigate it.
So WADA now have got a process in place. Your national anti-doping agencies like ours in the UK, you've gotta protect your sport so you can report anything that's suspicious to UKAD and you're anonymous. Unless there's something they need to investigate urgently, they're gonna work with you to make sure that you're protected at all costs.
So now with the new code, there is way more protection. But, yeah, 10 years ago there was nothing.
[00:22:50] Dr Christopher Brown: So, in terms of the prevalence, obviously that's a big part of PhD, what role do you think the media plays in terms of its reporting on Paralympic sport and Olympic sport when it comes to doping? Are the media turning a critical eye to Paralympic sport in the same way they are as Olympic sport?
[00:23:04] Ali Jawad: The answer is no. I think this is probably a cultural thing or a perception that people are, oh, disabled people don't cheat.
[00:23:11] Dr Christopher Brown: Oh yeah. That's interesting. That's why I was wondering if you were gonna say that, why do we have this? Why do we have this perception?
[00:23:15] Ali Jawad: It's the perception that as a disabled person, I have to be appreciative that I'm just playing sport and I'm just participating.
And I should be thankful that I'm on the stage and I'm not gonna blow it by cheating. Course not. Disabled people don't do that. Now, we know that when it comes to society, a lot of people might manipulate their impairment to get better disability benefits, so it happens in society.
So why don't we transfer it at a very competitive environment at the top level, where the prizes and the rewards are huge. Some para athletes are superstars, they've got huge sponsorship deals, so, like the Olympics, the reward at the end means that actually people are gonna always try to find an advantage to try and produce incredible performances.
Unfortunately, the media, the way they report is more like inspirational reporting rather than the Paralympic Games being under huge scrutiny like the Olympics. If you look at the reporting, a majority is positive, unless there's a huge scandal, it's always positive. Where, when it comes to Olympic reporting, there's always a downer. There's always positive things, but there's always a caveat in there. There's always an angle. Whereas, for Parasport, it's all about inspiration and inspiring the world. And you know how the Paralympic Games are seen as a vehicle for good with disabilities all over the world. But Parasport is exclusive because it's elite sport. Elite sport has to be exclusive because it's a competitive environment. And the media have got a lot to play in terms of its reporting and coverage still.
[00:24:45] Dr Christopher Brown: Scope did a campaign a few years ago called End the Awkward, I dunno if you're familiar with that or not, but basically how, yeah, some people are a bit worried about talking to disabled people, especially they're non-disabled because they don't wanna cause offence, we’re very worried about being politically correct here in this country.
Do you think that, because cause presumably most of the media are non-disabled in terms of reporting on Paralympic sport, so is it potentially that they don’t want to be seen as putting their head above the parapet and saying, ‘hang on, something might not be right here’. And then be accused of being disablist, or, you know, being not friendly or conducive to having social change.
What do you think about that?
[00:25:19] Ali Jawad: I think you're right. I think a lot of reporters are not disabled and they are scared to offend a disabled person. But the question I ask them is, why are you treating them as a disabled person? It's elite sport. It's competitive sport. Forget about somebody's impairment.
You are talking about elite athletes at the top of their game, competing at the highest levels, where the rewards and the outcomes are huge. Scrutinise that. Not somebody's disability. However, if somebody's disability is manipulated to achieve success, that's massive. Why would you not wanna investigate that? Like for me, that you should investigate that. Because faking your impairment is probably the worst thing you could do.
[00:26:06] Dr Christopher Brown: Okay. Yeah. So I mean that potentially is a culture change that's gonna take a bit of time.
[00:26:10] Ali Jawad: It is. But I think Channel 4 have done a good job.
All their presenters, for Tokyo, they're all disabled. Also for the Para Games in Beijing, a disabled cast. So I think Channel 4 have led the way, and I think other media outlets are gonna, they're gonna have to go that way to make sure that actually, one, they're being relatable. But, two, that can probably go a long way to end that awkwardness.
[00:26:37] Dr Christopher Brown: Yeah, we could talk load of loads about your area. It's such in a fascinating area for research.
What’s gonna be the dangers for you in terms of being able to actually get this research out there. What do you envision as challenges?
[00:26:48] Ali Jawad: Well, the big one is, I'm hoping not, but the International Paralympic Committee discrediting completely. For them, it opens up a can of worms that they probably don't want in public. I get that. It's an image thing. But as I said from the start, I'm not here to tarnish the Paralympic Games. It's been my life. I've been to four Games. I've committed, I've sacrificed my career for it, and I’d never wanna tarnish it. But, we still need to make it fair on the athletes and protect the athletes. So I'm hoping that the IPC see value in what I'm doing and doesn't come out guns blazing when the publication comes out.
As I said from the start, I'll give them the data before it gets published.
Because I want to be honest, I want to be transparent. I want them to prepare for what's coming as well, if it is coming. I'm trying to make them understand that it's not gonna cause a ripple effect in terms of negativity. I want them to go, actually, we embrace this information. It's great that somebody's done it, especially a Para athlete. And we're gonna use this to better our understanding. Yeah. We'll see what their reaction's gonna.
[00:27:52] Dr Christopher Brown: Hopefully it helps to legitimise the product so we can say that, okay, we know this is an area that has, perhaps, been under-researched, people may have had doubts.
This is what we've got so far in terms of data and this is how we can potentially try and make sure that we keep it in a clean and fair way to ensure that everyone is on the same level playing field.
[00:28:10] Ali Jawad: Yeah, I hope so. I hope they see it that way.
[00:28:12] Dr Christopher Brown: And when do we think this might be published? What kind of data are you working towards?
[00:28:17] Ali Jawad: Hopefully next year.
[00:28:19] Dr Christopher Brown: Oh, okay. I thought it's gonna be a few more years. Okay, so next year. Okay.
[00:28:23] Ali Jawad: Yeah. Because my first study is literally measuring the prevalence. So it's my first study. So I'm hoping to get the data, write it up, analyse it, write it up, and then, hopefully by next year sometime, I can try and submit it to publication.
[00:28:37] Dr Christopher Brown: And there's no Paralympic Games next year. So, you might be able to release it in a year where there's no Paralympic Games and then help the IPC potentially trying to manage that story. Who knows?
[00:28:47] Ali Jawad: That's a good point actually. Yeah. Yeah. I'd rather that than 2024.
[00:28:51] Dr Christopher Brown: Okay, so this is gonna be probably impossible to answer. So I caveat that before I ask you this question.
So what is the biggest area that needs to be challenged to try and make Paralympic sport more fair for athletes?
[00:29:11] Ali Jawad: I think it needs to be open to suggestions when it comes to regulation. So for example, I think that athletes need to be more involved in the discussion.
For example, when it comes to anti-doping, WADA hasn't gone an athlete on their board, that gets a vote on the decisions of WADA for athletes. Think about that, right? No athlete gets a vote. So how are they engaging with athletes? Well, they've got a WADA athlete commission that has no power. It's just an advisory board; they don't have to say yes to them.
The IPC are a little bit better in that sense. They do actually engage more with athletes. They can do way more. They know that. So it's using athletes’ experiences to be involved in that conversation and make sure that the regulations are in place. Really, actually consider what athletes are saying because actually athletes know a lot, like they've got their experiences on the ground; it’s valuable. Use it. Yeah, that's what I'd say.
So I’d say it's more of an engagement of athletes and making sure that they are listened to, in order to drive them policies and structures going forward.
[00:30:16] Dr Christopher Brown: Yeah. And listeners may find that quite odd that there is no representative with teeth or power. You know, they actually can't make a difference to how things are moving on.
Why do you think that is? What's your thoughts?
[00:30:27] Ali Jawad: Athletes just wanna compete. For us, it's not about politics. We just wanna compete and represent our countries. However, we are trusting the people in power to make the right decisions for us. Unfortunately, there's been loads of examples that them decisions have not been right. And the engagement of some of them processes has not been great either.
So I always say to athletes like, make sure you engage with the system, teach it on how to get better, and hopefully they're open to that. Unfortunately, with any sort of global organisation, it's all about data. It's all about numbers. And, at the moment, because there's no actual data on IM or boosting, you know, concrete data. They're like, well, doesn't exist, does it?
[00:31:11] Dr Christopher Brown: Yeah. Nothing to see here, right?
[00:31:12] Ali Jawad: There’s no problems. I can't see it.
They know it goes on. It's not a secret amongst the communities, but without actual numbers, I don't think they can actually counter it.
[00:31:27] Dr Christopher Brown: No. Yeah. And they don't wanna shine a light on something they don't know the full extent of at this stage.
[00:31:31] Ali Jawad: Yeah, exactly. So hopefully through people’s research, and that’s why I'm encouraging other researchers to look into this, we can help.
[00:31:39] Dr Christopher Brown: Yeah, definitely. Yeah. And obviously then we as viewers can watch it and be more confident that we are seeing actual fair quality competition.
Well, I think I speak for everybody listening that good luck with this research. It's very important. Probably gonna be some challenges along the way, for sure, which I'm sure you're very aware of. Looking forward to the first release of your study or your first results of your study next year.
Fingers crossed, you're able to get the data. Excellent area of research and really great talking to you, Ali.
[00:32:06] Ali Jawad: Thank you.
*** Discussion ends ***
[00:32:07] Dr Christopher Brown: That's it. That's all we have time for. Thanks for listening to another episode of the Disability Sport Info. Day tuned for another episode. Until then, goodbye.
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