The fight for clean sport is one that must be fought from every angle, from the athletes who shape the culture and demand accountability, to the scientists who advance testing and detection methods, to the sports leaders who choose to put athletes’ rights and a level playing field above all else.
Here are just some of the courageous figures fighting for the rights of clean athletes today:
An Olympic shot-putter and long-time anti-doping advocate, Adam Nelson initially won a silver medal at the 2004 Olympics before being retroactively awarded the gold medal almost 10 years later when his opponent was disqualified for doping. Rather than receiving his gold medal on the podium amid cheers and the sound of his national anthem, Nelson picked up his medal in a food court at the Atlanta airport, surrounded by the smell of fast food and people unfamiliar with what he had achieved.
Instead of sympathy, which he explains is “an emotion devoid of action,” Nelson has instead demanded change, joining a growing movement of athletes and national anti-doping organizations calling for global anti-doping reform.
Recently, Nelson testified before Congress in a hearing on the need for anti-doping reform, during which he urged International Olympic Committee (IOC) and World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) officials to take immediate action to fix the systems that allowed state-supported doping in Russia to occur and go unpunished. By testifying, Nelson spoke for all the athletes who have been awarded medals after the fact because of those looking to win at all costs.
Follow Adam on Twitter: @AdamMcNelson
As the Chair of WADA’s Athlete Committee, cross-country skier Beckie Scott also speaks for athletes, and the three-time Olympian has repeatedly petitioned for stronger action in response to state-supported doping. Scott is also familiar with what it feels like to quietly collect a gold medal years after competing, as she went from bronze to silver to gold in the two years after competing in the 2002 Olympics.
Like Nelson, Scott has used this experience as motivation to fight for clean sport, and she recently wrote about the need for a stronger, more independent World Anti-Doping Agency, as well as protections for the whistleblowers who put their own futures on the line to speak out for clean sport.
Follow Beckie on Twitter: @BeckieScott4
A strong advocate for clean sport, Beckie Scott of Canada celebrates bronze in the Women’s 5km Free Pursuit Cross Country at Soldier Hollow in Heber City during the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games in Utah.
The Clean Sport Collective
Launched at the end of 2016, the Clean Sport Collective is working to build a culture of clean sport by uniting athletes, brands, events, clubs, and others in a promise to “always train clean, compete clean, and live clean.” Supporters can sign one of nine pledges to support clean sport, thereby raising awareness about how doping hurts sport and the importance of doing it the right way. In building a conversation around clean sport, the Collective also works to elevate the athletes and brands who are competing clean, placing a spotlight on clean athletes at a time when doping scandals dominate the conversation.
So far, a number of elite athletes have joined the movement, including Kara Goucher and Olympians Jenny Simpson, Alysia Montaño, and Emma Coburn. Various brands have also taken the pledge to support clean sport by only sponsoring clean athletes, among which are Altra, Oiselle, and Brooks.
Follow Clean Sport Collective on Twitter: @CleanSportCO
For more than 25 years, Max Cobb has supported the success of the U.S. Biathlon Association (USBA), and across sport, he has become well-known for taking a hard stance against doping. In 2016, Cobb reflected on the growing culture of clean sport in the U.S., telling the New York Times, “The expectation in the United States now is that you will be tested and there will be no shortcuts.”
Most recently, Cobb emphasized the importance of winning the right way while celebrating Lowell Bailey, who became the first U.S. biathlete to win a gold medal in a World Championship. Speaking of Bailey’s achievement, Cobb said, “Being in the finish area and hearing the crowd, as loud for him as for anyone, will stay with me forever. It speaks to how much people respect him, not the least because of his work for clean sport.”
Follow Max on Twitter: @maxkcobb
Dr. Tom Brenna
During his almost 30 -year tenure as a Professor at Cornell University, Dr. Tom Brenna’s work has largely been translational, connecting basic research with biomedicine and human health. For nearly a decade, Dr. Brenna has also conducted research funded by the Partnership for Clean Competition to help advance anti-doping science and technology.
In 2008, Dr. Brenna was the first researcher to receive a PCC grant, which was for a study designed to facilitate the detection of synthetic anabolic steroids. Since then, the PCC has continued to support Dr. Brenna’s fundamental studies to improve steroid analysis, including efforts to develop steroid carbon isotope ratio (CIR) standards to harmonize analyses in anti-doping labs around the world.
His research group has published extensively on overcoming technical barriers for more rapid testing so steroid analyses can be expanded to a wider range of samples. By working to increase the sample throughput and detection limits, Dr. Brenna has helped improve existing testing techniques that benefit all sports entities.