Skeleton Racing: NZ role in anti doping agency

By Greg Taipari


Rotorua skeleton racer Ben Sandford is keen to play his part in stopping doping in sport after being appointed to the World Anti-Doping Agency.

The 33-year-old said he was honoured to be named on the athletes commission for the agency. He follows in the footsteps of former Olympic greats Sarah Ulmer and Barbara Kendall, who have filled the same role.

"I'm really excited about the appointment. I think making sport fair and free of doping is absolutely critical. I'm also a big believer in the importance of athletes being involved in the decision-making process when the decisions being made are of a direct consequence to the athletes and the sports that we are involved in."

Sandford, who competed at the 2006 Torino Olympics, and the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada (where he finished 10th and 11th respectively) has been competing on the world circuit since 2002. Last year he had his best placing at a Bobsleigh and Skeleton World Cup event, in St Moritz, Switzerland, finishing second.

Ranked in the top 15 in the world for men's skeleton, Sandford's season hasn't gotten off to the best start with an eighth in Lake Placid, New York, a did-not-compete at Park City, Utah, because of a back injury, and a 10th at Whistler, Canada, at the weekend.

However, Sandford said he was confident the new role, which he will hold for three years, wouldn't hamper his World Cup competition or his preparation for another Winter Olympics in Sochi, Japan, in 2014. "This shouldn't have any impact on my preparation for the world champs, with all the travelling I do, I have a fair bit of time where I should be able to catch up on any reading that might need to be done."

Sandford, who has been a member of the New Zealand Olympic Committee's athletes commission for the past four years and on the Federation International Bobsleigh and Tobogganing athletes committee for about six years, said the position was advertised internationally, he applied, and was nominated by the NZOC.

He said his new role would help give New Zealand athletes a voice in policy making.

"It creates a channel for New Zealand athletes to have a direct link into WADA's athlete commission, and therefore be able to express our opinion, influence policy and ensure that New Zealand and athletes in general have a say in how WADA functions and what the most effective ways are to ensure that sports are free of doping."

The athletes committee provided the executive board with advice, specifically athletes' opinions, concerns, ideas in relation to WADA and making sport drug free, Sandford said.

"I think I'm expected to be at two or three meetings a year and then contribute to discussions, offer feedback and give my opinion ... I feel very honoured, really excited to be part of WADA."

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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