World Education Conference: WADA calls for special protection of minors. AFLD FRANCE

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has urged international anti-doping stakeholders not to put the most vulnerable at risk as it wrapped up its participation at the 2024 World Education Conference in Cannes, France.

At the fourth edition of the Conference, which began on 27 February, WADA declared its intention to make anti-doping education mandatory for minors by revising the International Standard for Education (ISE) for signatories to the World Anti-Doping Code. It also called for changes in policy and legislation, and it encouraged governments around the world to change their policies or legislation. "Education is a priority for WADA. It is time for all anti-doping organisations and governments to do the same. Athletes must be supported and given the tools they need to compete cleanly throughout their careers. This process must start early. A positive introduction to the anti-doping system is essential. In particular, children competing at elite level must be protected. They and their coaches must receive a strong, values-based education at the earliest possible age," said WADA President Witold Bańka. "The first edition, which came into force in January 2021, was a solid first step. It is now time for the next stage of development. WADA will work with stakeholders to ensure that the process of updating the World Anti-Doping Code and the 2027 International Standard, which is currently underway, includes clear guidance on the education of minors and their teams," he added.

The 2024 World Education Conference attracted a record number of participants. AFLD FRANCE
The 2024 World Education Conference attracted a record number of participants. AFLD FRANCE

This year's GEC was organised by the Agence française de lutte contre le dopage (AFLD). It welcomed more than 400 participants from all over the world. It was a record attendance, surpassing the three previous editions. The event brought together anti-doping practitioners, researchers, government officials and athletes to discuss how best to fight doping and help create the best resources and tools to stop this scourge. Amanda Hudson, WADA's Director of Education, said: "Building on the work of the anti-doping community over the past few years, this year's World Education Conference aimed to create a shared education agenda." 

"With the mandate from the 2022 GEC and the momentum from this year's conference, we are well on our way to formally identifying how we, as a community, can fully realise the potential of education for the benefit of clean sport," she stressed.

Chair of WADA's Education Committee, Kady Kanouté Tounkara, said: "It bodes well for the future of anti-doping education that we have a record number of participants in Cannes for this edition of the conference. Participants can now take what they have learnt back to their respective regions of the world and start thinking in a truly preventative way." 

"Anti-doping organisations should take this opportunity to reflect on and review their current educational infrastructure and investments. They should challenge themselves and their governments to implement appropriate measures to ensure that minors in sport are well educated before they start competing in major events and interacting with the anti-doping system," she remarked.

A Social Science Research (SSR) Symposium was also held in parallel during the three days of the conference at the Université Côte d'Azur in Nice, France. This initiative served as a mechanism to facilitate discussion and exchange of ideas among various anti-doping stakeholders, researchers and practitioners. The search for a host for the fifth GEC (in 2026 or 2027) has already begun. To date, the GEC has been held in the Americas, Asia, Oceania and now Europe. Expansion to Africa, the Middle East and the Caribbean is therefore essential.