Not just winning, but winning it clean

The recent one-year ban against the Malaysian Weightlifting Federation over doping violation continues to mar the nation’s image. Despite efforts by the Anti-Doping Agency Malaysia (Adamas) to keep sports clean, the issues keep surfacing. The agency’s first woman director Azura Abidin has hit the ground running just five months into the job. Excited and eager to eradicate the menace, the sports administrator spoke to StarSport’s RAJES PAUL on the new efforts, plans and challenges.

Q: You are the first woman director for Adamas since it was established in 2007, how has it been for you?

A: I was promoted to this post in November last year after having been with the Youth and Sports Ministry for 19 years. I have a degree in sports management and masters in sports science. Before this, I was director of the economic development division under the ministry. Now, it’s totally different.

When I came on board, I entered a storm as we had to deal with the case of a 18-year-old student from Tengku Mahkota Ismail Sports School, who was tested positive. I had to pick up everything quickly. I’m lucky because I have a few key experienced personnel, including Nishel (Kumar, assistant director). We were able to execute a few activities too before the movement control order (MCO). I’m more settled.

How does Adamas operate and who are you accountable to?

Basically, we are a department under the Youth and Sports Ministry. We focus on testing, education and code compliance. We follow the code in accordance with WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency). We are also guided by Searado (South-East Asia Regional Anti-Doping Organisation). For now, Adamas reports to the ministry on our operational and decision-making matters. We get our funding from them.

Moving forward, we are putting up a proposal to be an independent body. I’m glad our sports minister puts strong emphasis on doping in sports. I want Adamas to play a bigger role in terms of enforcement, investigation and results management.

How effective do you think Adamas have been in their zero-tolerance campaign against doping?

Adamas have been doing well so far. It’s our duty to make sure the positive cases are less than one per cent. We’ve been organising smart testings – the testing is done at the right time with the right athlete. This year, we had planned to test 1,000 samples ahead of the Olympics and Sukma (Malaysia Games) but both events have been postponed. We will now focus on the current athletes before they go for competitions, testing will be done after the MCO is lifted. The testing will be done by our own doping control officers (DCO), a total of 70 throughout the country.

Despite all the efforts, why do we still hear about doping cases in Malaysia?

There were 12 cases in 2018 but that number was reduced to three in 2019. We had to deal with inadvertent doping and contaminated supplements. We are working closely with the Health Ministry and pharmaceutical departments as there are lots of medications and supplements in the market. We have to work together.

It’s important for athletes to know what they put into their mouths. Many are not aware what some supplements and beauty products contain. There will be a new WADC implemented in 2021. We will do our best to make sure all our stakeholders are aware of it. The previous code focused on high performance athletes but under the new one, the focus on recreational and leisure activities.

How can Adamas battle this?

We can’t do this alone ... we need all stakeholders to work together. We have good collaboration with the National Sports Council (NSC), National Sports Associations (NSA) and National Sports Institute (NSI). This year, we reached out to the states. For the first time, we organised training for officials from state sports councils and state youth and sports departments. Thirty officials turned up for every session at the start of this year. These officials deal directly with the state coaches and athletes, and as we have limited manpower, we use them to extend the knowledge to the state coaches and athletes. We will focus on sports schools next. We want to come out with more innovative and creative ways to deliver our message.

Some athletes and coaches are still ignorant about doping matters. Do they lack the education on scientific matters or is it a language barrier? Or do they lack integrity?

Integrity is integral in sports. It’s not only about winning but winning clean. It’s all about an individual’s attitude. Sometimes, the athletes alone are not to be blamed. They follow instructions from coaches and administrators.

We have different education programmes for different groups. There is a “Real Champion” programme for youngsters between 13 and 17. I’m proud to say that starting this year, we together with the National Coaching Academy and NSI made it compulsory for anti-doping module to be included in their Level 1, 2 and 3 coaching certification. All coaches have to pass an online anti-doping syllabus called Coach True, prepared by WADA, which is in English and Malay. Our coaches cannot pursue the coaching certification if they do not go through this comprehensive online programme.

We also have a WADA programme called ADeL (anti-doping e-learning platform). It offers courses for athletes, coaches, doctors, administrators and anyone interested in learning more about anti-doping and protecting the values of clean sport.

We are ready to help. The Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) have their medical and anti-doping committee too and so do every NSAs. There are avenues to seek help.

If there is one thing that Adamas have to improve, what will that be?

We would like to improve on the governance part.We want to make sure a better structure is put in place and have sufficient and credible manpower. We’ve got sufficient budget every year. If we need more, we will find creative ways on cost-sharing rather than depending on the government.

I’m excited, it’s a new challenge. I’m constantly looking for ways to see how best we can win this battle against doping.
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Doping , Adamas , director , Azura Abidin


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