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Meet the Head of Department of Management, Sport and Tourism

Dr Nicola McNeil has been the Head of Department of Management, Sport & Tourism (MST) since earlier this year. Business Newsroom sat down with Nicola to ask her some questions about what her previous roles were at LTU, her new role and other interesting facts about her.

Dr Nicola McNeil

Where do you come from and what brought you to La Trobe University?

I always wanted to be a solicitor and loved studying law, but I ended up not enjoying practicing law. I was fortunate that one of my Professors who taught me in my undergrad degree took me on as a Research Assistant and later as a Research Fellow, so I sort of fell into academia by accident. I realised I had a passion for research and really enjoyed teaching. I worked at Monash and Deakin before coming to La Trobe University. I have been here now for eleven years.

So how did you transition from Law to Human Resource Management?

My experience in employer relations fits really well in the HR discipline.

How will you be approaching your role as Head of Department?

In my various roles within the SchooI, I have gained a lot of insights into how the University works. This allows me to not only focus on what we do as a Department but also see what we do in the greater scheme of things, aligning our activities to the LTU and LBS strategy.

Looking at the MST Department itself, we are unique, as we have a high proportion of staff that are in the early stages of their academic careers. Besides supporting our experienced staff, I want to especially focus on providing support to our early career teachers and researchers by actively engaging them, starting dialogues with senior staff and helping mentor them to kickstart their careers.

What do you know now that you wished you knew when you were a student at university?

It’s okay to fail. I was a bit of a perfectionist when I was younger, which was at times quite stressful. Now I realise it’s okay to make mistakes or have things turn out differently than expected, as long as you learn from it. I also think it is really important to learn how to turn bad situations around, and always find a positive takeaway. If I had known that when I was younger, I would have been less of a stress-head.

What do you do to get rid of stress?

I take my dogs for a walk, or play the piano.

Lastly, if people come across you at the coffee-machine, what’s a good conversation starter?

I’m a cricket tragic and a Melbourne Storm fanatic, so you can always talk to me about cricket or rugby!  However, a simple “how’s it going” will get me engaged in a conversation too.

Nicola is currently working on several research projects in the areas of gender and work, work-life balance and the impact of high-performance work practices on employee wellbeing. She has received research grants and consultancies from the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Australian Federal Government, VicHealth, industry partners and not-for-profit organisations. 
Nicola is a leading educator and teaches classes in employment relations, human resource management and research methods to undergraduate and postgraduate students, and supervises several PhD and Honours students. Nicola is also an instructor for the Australian Consortium of Social and Political Research Inc (ACSPRI) and offers courses on the use of computer-assisted qualitative data analysis and mixed methods research.

Basketbrawl

We know what it is, but what do we call it.  Fight. Stoush. Stink. Blue. Donnybrook. Altercation. An exchange of pleasantries. Ruckus. Brouhaha. Bit of Biffo. Fracas. Melee. Free for all.

The whatever-you-want-to-call-it between the Australian and Filipino basketball teams turned an otherwise humdrum game of international basketball into an international incident.

Sports violence

There are as many angles to take on this incident as there were punches thrown.

Sport is a masculine area of social life.  Let’s look at this list of words – physical, assertive, tough, rough, competitive, intense, intimidating, risky, aggressive, destructive, and violent.  None of them look out of place when describing sport, but they are actually from a well-accepted list of theoretical terms commonly associated with definitions of sports violence. Sport and violence are certainly not poles apart.

The circumstances were ripe for a whatever-you-want-to-call-it.  Home team being beaten comfortably. Some niggle. Some sledging. Equal parts nationalism and patriotism. A push, a shove and then a great big whack (by an Australian). The Filipino bench players take a few steps forward, and ‘fly the flag’ in support of their team mates. Somehow the Australian bench players resist the natural instinct to do likewise. And then it was on like Donkey Kong, except they threw chairs rather than barrels. The Australian Five versus…well pretty much everyone else. The court is small, so the pandemonium easy moves off court.  It was a perfect storm.

Sanctions

Authorities will take a dim view of the players actions, providing many with a time out and a very visible naughty seat upon which they can reflect on their behaviours. But these authorities also need to exercise some restraint. Natural justice has a few dimensions and one of them is that the punishment must fit the crime.  It would be easy for FIBA, the International Basketball Federation, to throw the book at the Australian players. For example, should Daniel Kicker be sanctioned more for his elbow to the head of an opposing player simply because of what happened next? Does Thon Maker get some sort of reprieve because his flying kicks missed? Whatever the sanctions, some will say it is too much, others will say it is not enough.  If this criticism occurs, then you can be confident that FIBA got it about right. What is less clear is whether or not FIBA may seek to impose sanctions on Basketball Australia (BA) or Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, its Filipino equivalent.

Responsibility

So far BA has played its cards well.  There have been some attempts to shift responsibility for the whatever-you-want-to-call-it to the Filipinos, but the BA CEO and Chair were quick to acknowledge some responsibility. The same can be said of the players.  At this stage the less they say the better. The majority of social media comments can be classified into one of two themes – “How good is this?” and “I am outraged”. BA cannot speak to the first group and they will need to placate outraged. Contrition is key to all of their messaging.

So, whatever you want to call it, basketball was not the winner.

 

This blog is written by Dr Geoff Dickson, Associate Professor and Head of Department of Management Sport and Tourism. His teaching and research interests include governance, interorganisational networks, leadership, strategy, risk and law in the sport industry. 

Can economics remove doping from sport?

Trying to gain an unfair advantage through performance-enhancing drugs has plagued sport for years. From swimming to soccer, Aussie Rules to athletics, sports across the spectrum have suffered blows to their credibility as a result of banned substances.

A 2010 study revealed that many cyclists believe it’s impossible to compete without doping. Most famously, seven-time winner of the Tour de France, Lance Armstrong, made a spectacular fall from grace in 2013 following years of doping allegations by former teammates. The incident shone a harsh light on the prevalence of drugs at the highest levels of sporting competition.

 

What if there was a new way to help ensure that athletes play fair? A system to help increase compliance with existing anti-doping regulations?

 

 

How economics can change athletes’ behaviour

A system based around incentives rather than punishment is being trialled by La Trobe Business School, Senior Lecturer in Microeconomics, Dr Liam Lenten. The trial uses grant money supplied by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and is being run in conjunction with the University of Adelaide’s Experimental Economics Lab.

“Current anti-doping enforcement relies on suspensions and fines. Our research will consider innovative anti-doping policy ideas that can be used in tandem with existing punishments,” Dr Lenten says. As an alternative, Dr Lenten and his colleagues propose a system called ‘conditional superannuation’. Simply put, athletes sign a contract whereby they forego a percentage of their earnings and prize money, say 10 per cent, and recoup those earnings at a later date – providing they continue to test negative for banned substances.

 

 

How bad is the doping problem, really?

There’s a strong need for new approaches to doping in elite sport. In an academic paper on the subject, Dr Lenten argues that high-profile doping scandals raise questions about whether suspensions, sanctions and public shaming sufficiently discourage athletes from using banned substances.

Informally, athletes, officials and researchers believe that doping might be far more widespread than is reported or tested for. Dr Lenten and his co-authors report that the actual rate of doping has been approximated at 14 to 39 per cent of athletes, compared to the 0.5 to 2.0 per cent level of positive doping control tests. In surveys asking athletes and coaches to estimate doping, the numbers escalate further.

 

What solutions to doping exist?

Given the extent of the problem and the impossibility of ensuring drug-free sport under the current system, consider these alternative approaches.

The first is full legalisation of drugs in sport. This course of action would undoubtedly be met with public and professional outcry and, given the risks that some performance-enhancing drugs pose to health, could potentially result in deaths.

The second option is a draconian, even dystopian, system of monitoring and control that might go as far as ‘criminal investigations, forensic DNA analyses, “coercive” interviewing, extensive psychometric and personality surveys, lie detection testing, and athlete micro-chipping for whereabouts checks, as well as, ultimately, in vivo chemical testing.’ This option, aside from being a direct slight to an athlete’s personal integrity, would prove prohibitively expensive, and is at least for the time being unviable.

 

 

Are economic incentives the middle ground?

A middle way could be conditional superannuation. But while it may prove an effective adjunct to existing policy, on its own conditional superannuation isn’t perfect. This is because individual competitors respond to punishment or incentive-based motivations in different ways.

For example, younger athletes may not perceive the benefit of money for a future that still seems so far away. And older athletes may not be deterred by the threat of a ban or a late financial penalty if they’re already in the twilight of their career. However, Dr Lenten says that these problems could be mitigated by taking a context-specific approach to each athlete’s contract. This means younger athletes might face bans, whereas older athletes might face financial penalties that could even take effect retroactively.

Dr Lenten and his colleagues have begun testing the model using a pilot experiment. So far they’ve found ‘early and suggestive evidence in favour of trialling a conditional superannuation scheme at some level of professional or elite sport’. While not yet conclusive, the study represents a positive development to an issue that can’t and won’t be solved overnight.

In the face of elite sport’s ambitious, competitive and high-pressure environment, athletes are likely to test the rules in search of an advantage. However, considered and evidence-based solutions from outside the boxes of ‘radical tolerance’ or ‘stifling scrutiny’ might be just the motivation they need to stay on a level playing field.

 

This blog post was originally published on NEST. Read the original article.

Game on: life as an intern with the Melbourne Rebels

Ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes of a professional sports game?

La Trobe student John Tran did, and this curiosity led him to an internship with the Melbourne Rebels Rugby Union Club.

A dream come true

John Tran is in his final year of a Bachelor of Business (Sports Management). As part of this course, students are required to find and complete an internship at a sports club.

When his sports practicum coordinator posted an internship with the Melbourne Rebels on the student noticeboard earlier this year, John, a lifelong sports fan, jumped at the opportunity.

‘I watched a lot of sport as a kid and I always wondered what went on behind the scenes,’ he says.

‘Obviously a lot of people are just focusing on the game, but I’ve learned that there are a lot of things that need to happen for the event to run properly.

‘It’s pretty hectic behind the scenes with everything that needs to be set up and packed down. Among other things, we have to make sure the media are sorted, and that the sponsors’ expectations are being met.

‘As a business, we need to make sure that the sponsors are satisfied with the signage that goes around the stadium and so on.’

While it’s an exciting position for a young sports fan, it’s also a demanding one. Luckily, John was well prepared by his sports practicum coordinator.

‘Before the internship started, we had classes about what to expect, what to do, and how to do it, so that helped a lot. I was also able to put into place a lot of the theory that we learned in sponsorship and events management, two earlier subjects for this course.’

A typical day at the club

In addition to his studies and part-time job, John spends up to three days a week at the club. On a weekday, he’ll be there from 10 am to 5 pm, preparing for game day.

‘We do operational activities, so things like contacting sponsors and making sure they have everything they need,’ he says.

‘We’ve also got to make signs for the locker rooms, so that players know where to go, and signs so officials know where to go, and where to sit, and so on.

‘Then there’s fan activations. For example, there is a Land Rover one where fans come and throw a ball at a target, and we’ve got to make sure that it’s set up in a place where the ball won’t go on the street and is easily collectible. So, I have to use what I’ve learned about OH&S for that!’

This weekday preparation all helps relieve some of the pressure on game days, which are full on. While kick-off is usually in the late evening, John gets to be there behind the scenes much earlier.

‘On game days we’re there from 11 am setting up. We set up, we pack up, we supervise kid’s activities… Timing is critical, so we have our running sheet that says what we need to do and when, and we’re constantly checking things off as we go. It’s a full on, exciting day, and we don’t really get to stop!’

Graduation and beyond

With just one subject to go next semester, the end of John’s degree is well within sight. He hopes his internship with the Melbourne Rebels will be a stepping stone to a graduate position.

‘I think that I will have a lot of connections at the end of this, and I’ve got a lot of experience learning from a professional sports club,’ he says.

John ultimately hopes to use his newfound connections and experience to obtain a job at the end of this year in an events role with a professional club.

‘But just getting the connections and having the experience is the main thing, and this internship has definitely helped me to achieve that.’

Looking to bolster your real-world experience with an internship? Look no further.

Our industry connections make you career ready

What you do at university is important to us.

However, it’s what you do after university that interests us the most. We know that studying is a significant investment, so we’re committed to making sure you graduate ready for work.

With the employment landscape evolving constantly, the best way to make sure we’re teaching the right skills is to go straight to the source. That’s why we work closely with industry to find out what they want in graduates – both right now and in the future.

Developing the degrees industry needs

We’re constantly reinvigorating our courses to prepare you for roles in emerging fields of employment. We work directly with industry to identify skill gaps and develop degrees to address them.

For example, our industry partner Cisco has identified that there are currently a million cybersecurity jobs opening globally, with demand projected to rise in the coming years.

In response to this demand, we’ve developed our new suite of cybersecurity degrees with input from Cisco, Optus, Australia Post, Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), Cisco, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Symantec, Atlassian and Cloudera.

Simone Bachmann, Head of Information, Security, Innovation and Culture and Australia Post, says, ‘we need people with problem solving skills, we need innovators, we need people with legal and regulatory skills, we need communicators and educators to help people understand the problem.’ These degrees address the growing need for cybersecurity professionals with interdisciplinary skills.

Our Master of Sport Analytics (developed with leading sports clubs and technology companies), Master of Business Analytics (with 20 per cent of the curriculum taught by industry experts) and Master of Data Science (addressing a data analytics skills shortage) are other examples of our industry relationships preparing students for the future of work.

Future-facing industry partnerships

We’ve established relationships with major organisations to make sure we stay at the forefront of industry developments.

Our partnership with Optus, which focuses on cybersecurity, will result in scholarships and Work Integrated Learning (WIL) opportunities for our students, as well as employment pathways for graduates.

We work closely with a number of sporting clubs, including Melbourne City Football Club, Carlton Football Club, AFL Player’s Association, Bendigo Spirit and IPL Kings XI Punjab to give our students access to work placements as well as research and internship opportunities.

We’re also the only university to offer an accredited art subject at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV). As learning partner for the NGV’s summer exhibition, we’ve offered the subject Summer at the NGV for the past four years – in 2017, students were able to study the work of British icon David Hockney.

Preparing you for success with industry insights

Technology is advancing at an incredible rate, which means that many of today’s roles won’t even exist in the future.

It’s our job to prepare you for the roles of the future. We do this by helping you develop the flexibility and transferable skills you need to adapt to the changing market.

We’ve spoken to a number of employers, including PwC, Commonwealth Bank, Alfred Health, Thoughtworks, Pfizer, CSIRO, Melbourne Football Club, Telstra, Bureau of Meteorology, Deloitte, Certified Practicing Accountants and more to identify the core skills and attributes that employers value most highly.

We’ve used these insights to develop Career Ready, a program that supports you to build the attributes employers want. The program includes an app, a dedicated support team, an on-campus recruitment agency, and a range of activities you can participate in to build your skills.

First-hand industry experience

We’re also making sure our students come into contact with industry while they’re still studying.

With our Professors of Practice program, we’re championing a shift in how industry can contribute to education. Our Professors of Practice are industry professionals employed by the university to advise on curriculum, and, in some cases, teach.

Mark Morris, a Professor of Practice in the Department of Accounting, says, ‘I try to provide insights as to what they will find in the workplace wherever I can, because this is exactly the kind of knowledge that can give them an edge to stand out from the crowd.’

Work Integrated Learning (WIL) opportunities place students in organisations, giving them the opportunity to apply their theoretical knowledge in a real industry environment. After graduation, many of our students are employed by their WIL employer.

This post was originally published on the NEST blog.

Panel Event: Better Out Than In Panel Event

La Trobe University, the AFLPA and Beyondblue present research and individual stories of courage at an exclusive panel event aimed at reducing the stigma around discussing men’s mental health.

Moderated by: Nick Dal Santo, 300 game ex-AFL player

Panel: Andrew Thorpe (Beyondblue), Dr Paul O’Halloran (La Trobe University), Jake Edwards (Outside The Locker Room).

Tea and coffee provided at the conclusion of the panel discussion.

Panel Event

Date: Thu. 27 July 2017

Time: 10am – 11:30am

Venue: Odeon Room, La Trobe University, Melbourne Campus, Plenty Road, Melbourne.

Register: Please register via Eventbrite.

Simmons journey takes him from UAE to Vicsport

Randall2.jpg

Simmons is loving his role as the Events and Administration coordinator at Vicsport.

After living in the United Arab Emirates for most of his childhood, La Trobe Bachelor of Business (Sport Management) graduate Randall Simmons took a chance and moved to Australia’s heartland of sport to pursue a career in the industry.

“I selected La Trobe because of the quality of its Sport Management course, and the opportunity to learn about sport management in the capital of sport was hard to pass up on.”

Gaining expertise with organisations such as Melbourne City Football Club, Carlton Football Club, the Victorian Olympic Council and the North Melbourne Football Club, Simmons made an immediate impact.

Simmons performed duties in a number of roles and across various departments including hospitality, delivering community programs and volunteer training.

“When I moved to Melbourne, I made a conscious decision to get as much sport experience as possible before I graduated.”

“By volunteering in these organisations I was able to gain the experience which most organisations in sport look for and this helped me land a full time role.”

“Sporting organisations look to employ people who have worked in the industry, volunteering is a big box to tick.”

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Randall completed placement at the Carlton Football Club as part of the Sport Management practicum.

The skills Randall gained in these positions assisted him to secure employment as the Events and Administration coordinator at VicSport immediately after his degree.

The La Trobe graduate was among a wave of applicants for the position, including many from the same graduating cohort as his own.  Upon reflection, Randall says it was his volunteering, internships and tailored course work that set him apart from the rest.

“The Bachelor of Business (Sport Management) degree was designed to give us real world experience of what is happening in the industry.”

“From Sport Marketing to Sport Governance, I have been able to take certain aspects from all my subjects and apply it to my role and in my organisation.”

LTU Volunteer 2
Randall’s performed duties across a number of departments while volunteering at the Melbourne City Football Club.

By studying a Bachelor of Business (Sport Management), you could work with La Trobe’s network of sporting partners such as the Carlton Football Club, Melbourne Rebels and Melbourne City Football Club.

This post was originally published on the La Trobe University Intern Diaries Blog.

La Trobe Business School partners for Sport Development and Peace

Dr Emma Sherry

LBS Associate Professor Emma Sherry recently participated in the inaugural symposium on Sport for Development and Peace, hosted by the University of Illinois as an invited speaker and Town Hall panelist. The symposium, titled Forming Partnerships and Linkages in Sport for Development and Peace: Considerations, Tensions, and Strategies, brought together international academics and sport for development experts and practitioners to discuss how sport, specifically through the creation and nurturing of key partnerships, can be used to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

The purpose of the symposium was to bring together scholars, practitioners and students engaged in sport for development and peace (SDP) to create a dialogue about forming and sustaining partnerships and linkages between SDP initiatives and other sectors, the challenges facing partnership development, and strategies to overcome these challenges. The symposium was hosted by the Department of Recreation, Sport, and Tourism (RST) at the University of Illinois, the Sport+Development Lab (SDL), and Play for Change. The SDL is home to faculty and graduate students researching the intersection of sport and development. Play for Change is a registered student organization (RSO) focused on involving undergraduate and graduate students in actionable projects that use sport, recreation, and tourism for social change.

The sport for development and peace (SDP) field has grown exponentially in recent years, with more and more organizations, practitioners, and academics around the world embracing the possible contribution that sport can make to development agendas. SDP can occur at the individual, community, and societal levels. It can be defined as the use of sport as an engine for development through intercultural exchange, conflict resolution and peace building, community building, social inclusion, or programming for interpersonal development or health.

An emerging line of commentary in SDP concerns the nature of partnerships with various industry sectors. Without effective and sustainable partnerships, SDP organizations and scholars cannot viably engage in the field to effect social change; partnerships are the life blood of SDP organizations. However, many challenges and barriers exist that inhibit effective partnerships and linkages. From overcoming power dynamics, to misaligned goals and objectives, challenges can prevent organizations from establishing long-term partnerships and carrying out their missions. Given the international significance of partnerships and collaborations in SDP, much more conversation is needed about the nature of partnerships, their challenges, and effective strategies for forming and sustaining them.

The symposium brought together SDP experts, including Dr Sherry, to share presentations drawing on an original paper written for this symposium. Presenters provided a state of the field synopsis regarding partnerships with a specific sector (for example, health, community organisations, education or national and international bodies), outline challenges for developing and sustaining them, and then propose strategies for addressing these challenges.

In addition to the symposium, there were also two evening public events. On the first night, Dr. John Sugden, one of the world’s foremost experts in SDP and partnership development, provided a keynote address on the history and development of SDP, its current state of the field, and thoughts on developing and sustaining partnerships and linkages. The second night featured a town hall meeting with the symposium presenters focused on the power of sport to work for social good and change, and the challenges associated with doing so.

Dr Sherry noted that although the two-day symposium provided a full schedule for all attendees, the opportunity for international scholars in this field to spend time together to deeply discuss key research, theory-building and opportunities for research collaboration was invaluable. The opportunity for networking and discussion was extended through a very active use of Twitter by those organizing and attending (#sport4change2017) which extended the reach of the symposium to those unable to attend in person. Dr Sherry hopes that this is the first of many such events, and was delighted to be invited to present and share her research in the SDP field.

La Trobe Business School Sport Management student Rebecca Privitelli ready to tackle on and off-field career

La Trobe Business School Sport Management student, Rebecca Privitelli, is rising to prominence throughout Melbourne’s Northern suburbs by cashing in on a huge month in women’s sport.

The 21 year old will be competing in the inaugural AFLW competition in 2017, after being selected by Carlton with pick 142 in the national draft on October 12th this year.

She rounded out her exciting month by being named the first ever head coach of the Northern Knights Football Club women’s team on October 21st.

During this busy period Privitelli still found the time to continue her studies and complete her 120 hours placement at Ikon Park through La Trobe’s partnership with the Carlton Football club.

Speaking to La Trobe Sport earlier this year, Privitelli said growing up ‘she always had a passion for the sport’.

“My biggest dream was to become one of the first women to play in the AFL,” she said. “My love for the sport developed as I started playing and coaching, however I felt like there was an aspect of the game I was yet to be involved in.”

For Privitelli, this turned out to be working in the code she loved and getting vital exposure to the sport industry through her internship at Carlton.

Privitelli gets active during placement.

“Once I completed high school, I received my first job in football which primarily focused on development of the game at the grassroots level.  It was through this opportunity that I realised that a degree in Sports Management was a way I could transform my passion for AFL into a career in the industry.”

Choosing where to complete that Sports Management degree was not a decision Privitelli took lightly, hoping to balance her busy lifestyle while maximising her opportunities to become career-ready post degree.

“La Trobe stood out to me as the clear choice as they had the most extensive options for Sports Management.  The university also appealed to me as they were able to support my commitments as a footballer through the La Trobe Elite Athlete Program.”

“As I neared the end of my second year at La Trobe, placement options were at the forefront of my mind and when I was given the chance to undertake my placement at the Carlton Football Club I knew it was the moment I had been waiting for.”

“I was lucky to be offered a role at the club as a Community Outreach Officer along with nine other La Trobe students.”

The students’ responsibilities as Community Outreach Officers included being responsible for creating authentic experiences for fans and creating a sense of belonging for the community by delivering the Community and Diversity programs.

Privitelli (front left) with fellow students, Carlton Staff and Sport Management co-ordinator Pam Kappelides at Ikon Park.

“I’ve had the opportunity to assist a range of people both internal and external to the club, building my network of industry professionals in the process.”

This network includes students and teachers within the Northern corridor, people within communities from different cultural backgrounds and people involved in the women’s AFL academy.”

Privitelli feels that the experience gained throughout the internship, along with the knowledge gained from her degree has equipped her to to start a successful career in the sport industry.

“The experience gained throughout my placement has significantly enhanced my communication and leadership skills.”

“Everything I have learnt throughout my placement in conjunction with the knowledge gained from my degree at La Trobe University leaves me feeling like I can enter the workforce with confidence.”

“I can now complete my degree with the belief that I am well positioned to tackle any challenge that comes my way.”

This article was originally published on the La Trobe University internships blog.

Cleaning up sport: conflicts of interest at the top | Space for Transparency

 

By Catherine Ordway

The tension between the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has never been greater than this year, when WADA recommended a ban on all Russian athletes from participating in the Rio Olympic Games, only to have the IOC reject that position. This points to a fundamental challenge for the relationship between the two organisations. As WADA is half run and funded by the IOC, its independence can be questioned.

In a vote to maintain the status quo, 75 year-old Sir Craig Reedie, an IOC member since 1994, was re-elected on 20 November as WADA President for a further three year term. Many of WADA’s decision-makers appear not to see a conflict in their dual/multiple roles. As IOC member and former WADA President, Dick Pound put it: “Tell me what the conflict of interest is between your capacity as an IOC member espousing clean, doping-free sport and sitting as representative of that organisation on [the] foundation board of WADA, which has the same objective.”

The fact that both WADA and the IOC have as a common goal the desire to achieve ‘drug free’ sport, does not negate the inherent conflict that arises in the space where the aims differ.

Despite creating WADA with inbuilt conflicts, the IOC now realises that WADA needs to change. The Declaration of the 5th Olympic Summit of 8 October recognised the fundamental philosophical tension within international sport on WADA’s role. Recommendation 3 emphasises that: “WADA [is] to strengthen its governance structure” and “[must] Ensure compliance with the highest ethical standards in particular with regard to the resolution of conflicts of interests and integrity.”

The Declaration went on to indicate that WADA should both be better resourced to operate independently and have greater powers. Hopefully this is also an indication that the IOC may now be willing to relinquish control and allow for greater independence.

Organisational objective conflicts

The IOC owns the Olympic Games and receives much of its revenue from the broadcasting and sponsorship of these events. It’s in the IOC’s interest to have the best athletes from all member nations there to keep the Games relevant and competitive. The proposal to ban Russia created a difficult dilemma for the IOC.

The challenge created when common interests raise a potential conflict is also demonstrated in WADA’s appointment of Dick Pound as the lead investigator in the first “independent” report into international athletics (IAAF) and Russia’s state sponsored doping. For the report to be ‘independent’, Pound’s current and former positions should have made him ineligible for this role.

In the most recent demonstration of the challenge posed, IOC members Gian-Franco Kasper and Dr. Ugur Erdender currently sit on both the committees that considered whether the athletes nominated by the Russian Olympic Committee should be barred from competing at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, namely the IOC and WADA Executive Boards.

The IOC’s decision not to accept WADA’s recommendation on Russia’s eligibility sends the message that Olympic goals, including supporting one of the IOC’s strongest members, are prioritised over the aims of WADA. At the meeting of the broader IOC membership, only the former British skeleton athlete, and WADA Foundation member, Adam Pengilly, voted to support WADA’s recommendation, while Reedie abstained.

Composition of WADA’s Decision-Making Bodies

WADA’s mission is to: “promote and coordinate at [the] international level the fight against doping in sport in all its forms”.  To strengthen WADA’s governance and remove the conflicts between the different stakeholders, as recommended by the IOC, requires rewriting WADA’s constitutional documents to allow for the appointment of independent decision-makers.

As it stands now, WADA’s constitution provides for a two-tiered decision making system: the large Foundation Board made up of representatives from both governments and the Olympic movement, and a sub-set of that group sits as the Executive Committee. Most of the policy-makers sitting on WADA’s Executive Committee are also on its decision-making body, the Foundation Board. In order for the Foundation Board to truly play an oversight role, there should not be an overlap of personnel.

To have any claim to ‘independence’, WADA must also sever the tie between receipt of funding, and eligibility for a seat at the WADA board table.

As detailed elsewhere, this bind creates a number of issues for WADA, including: the danger of WADA being manipulated or held hostage by the dominant funder (see reference 1 below) and wasting resources on solving the struggles and disagreements between stakeholders with competing agendas (see reference 2 below).

The separation will help to diminish, but not completely avoid, the issues around funding bodies influencing the way WADA operates. How ‘independence’ is defined and achieved is a challenge that needs to be worked through in consultation with all the major stakeholders. Athletes have the ultimate vested interest in ensuring that sport is played fairly, and that ‘innocent’ athletes are supported and protected (see reference 3 below).

The current financial and rights model must be turned on its head to give athletes the ultimate say on how sport is governed and policed. Inverting the power pyramid will open up dialogue around ensuring greater justice and economic benefits for athletes. A more representative WADA would see a broad, inclusive group of skilled people reflecting the demographics of the community, including athlete alliancesanti-doping specialists, scientists, professional team sport employers and sponsors.

Opening up the nomination process would also provide the opportunity for other organisations with an interest in supporting ‘clean’ sport, such as the UN Office for Drugs and Crime and the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption, to increase their involvement.  There is also capacity to expand UNESCO’s role in monitoring the implementation of the anti-doping convention.

An independent Foundation Board and Executive Committee will “strengthen [WADA’s] governance structure” by creating an additional internal accountability mechanism.  The challenge will be to then develop a fair, inclusive process so the views of athletes can be more comprehensively reflected, replacing the current Athlete Commission model.

The IOC’s plea for the “resolution of conflicts of interests and integrity” can be answered by ensuring that WADA’s decision-making bodies are composed of a diverse range of independent thinkers who are answerable to the athletes, not representative stakeholders.  Managed carefully, having experts from a range of disciplines available to set WADA’s strategic direction will ensure that anti-doping serves those most impacted by it.

References

1. For more on capture, see P. Sabatier, ‘Social Movements and Regulatory Agencies: Toward a More Adequate – and Less Pessimistic – Theory of “Clientele Capture”’ (1975) 6 Policy Sciences 301; M. E. Levine and J. L. Forrence, ‘Regulatory Capture, Public Interest, and the Public Agenda: Toward a Synthesis’ (1990) 6 Journal of Law, Economics & Organization 167.

2. U. Wagner, ‘The World Anti-Doping Agency: Constructing a Hybrid Organisation in Permanent Stress (Dis)Order?’ (2009) 1 International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics 183, 196.

3. S. Moston and T. Engelberg, “Guilty Until Proven Innocent (and Then Still Guilty)” Report, James Cook University, 15 November 2016

This post was originally published on the Transparency International Blog.

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