Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 360-365)

4 MAY 2004

Ms Guinevere Batten, Mr Giles B Long, and Mr Adam Pengilly

  Q360 Mr Flook: But a slider is not going to have to compete with a professional footballer—he might but it is unlikely—so why do they have to have the same? I am asking the question for you to give me the answer?

  Mr Pengilly: Why do we have to have the same system across sports?

  Q361 Mr Flook: Yes, all sports?

  Mr Long: Could I just say that I think it is important that you do have the same system across all sports. We have already, just from as far as we have got, worked out that it is a very complex state of affairs. If you start introducing drugs that you can have in certain sports and ones that you cannot have in others, it is not unheard of in paralympics for people to actually move across sport boundaries, particularly, say, if they have a degenerative condition, and if you did then you could end up with all sorts of things. You could take a substance which was okay in sport (a) and by the time you had moved to sport (b) you could find yourself potentially in the face of a ban.

  Q362 Mr Flook: It is also the difference in the way in which you are treated under your codes to the way a professional footballer might be treated?

  Mr Long: Sure.

  Ms Batten: If you, for example, look at tennis, it would be very different if that sort of thing happened in my sport of rowing, and I think as rowing came under the WADA quite a few of the periods of exclusion have been reduced. I think a standard makes it much simpler to understand. It is much simpler for the public to understand. It also creates a lot more strength in trying to get the sentences to stick, because that is very important, but I would like to see different sports giving out similar sentences.

  Q363 Alan Keen: You have answered the question I was going to ask you. Would each of you like to say what changes you would like to see? You have answered some of this already, but is there anything you would like to add to what you have said already?

  Ms Batten: For us the biggest thing I think the Government could do to help athletes in this country is to create a series of supplements that athletes can take that when they take them they know that the ingredients on the list are the ingredients, almost to say that it is a medical standard, so that when they are on the production line that they know that no other substances have fallen into the supplements when they are being produced. It is very, very hard for athletes to be completely responsible for what goes into their body when there are products that they need to take because, even though they can have a healthy balanced diet, there are times when athletes are travelling abroad, they are eating hotel accommodation food at very, very awkward times to fit in with their schedules, often the athletes themselves may be on weight restriction diets to bring themselves down into weight categories. They need to take supplements, and at the moment when they take a supplement off the shelf in Boots, even if it is one of the top brands, they are taking a risk with the whole of their career and it would be really beneficial.

  Q364 Charles Hendry: In your submission you talk a bit about the role-model aspect as well and you call for more support for athletes in arranged visits to schools. What sort of additional support are you looking for?

  Ms Batten: I have looked into this area a little bit. I have gone and spoken at schools and a lot of schools will come up to me after I have spoken and said, "Will you come down to my school. Will you do this?" There is a limit to the amount that you can do. I know there are a lot of athletes out there that would go and talk to schools, especially local athletes, because to travel halfway across Britain when you know an athlete lives next door, so giving the athletes that are very young, up and coming ones the skills in which to talk publicly would be very important, and also to link in the local athletes with the local schools. I am quite fortunate that my local sports college have adopted me as a patron, and it is very rewarding as an athlete to go back repeatedly to the same school and build up a relationship not only with the staff but with some of the children at the school. So that sort of assistance in getting that sorted would be helpful.

  Q365 Charles Hendry: Who should pay for that training and pay for the travelling? Who should that be?

  Ms Batten: I think that is up to our sports administrators to find that.

  Mr Pengilly: It could be something within the athletes' career education kind of plan, which has now got a new name.

  Ms Batten: Performance Lifestyle.

  Mr Pengilly: Performance Lifestyle, yes. That could be included in that, but I think some sort of training and also help working with children, because often some people would describe elite athletes as a bit obsessive about what they do, clinical psychologists might often say that, not that we are freaks or anything, but a bit of training to work with children as well would not go amiss, but within, say, just a half-day session, or something like that, would certainly help and would help to give the athlete more confidence to go out into these schools as well.

  Chairman: Thank you very much. We are most grateful to you.

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