Africa’s Star Skeleton Athletes join call for World Anti-Doping policy change

Africa Skeleton
FILE PHOTO — Akwasi Frimpong of Ghana (left) and Seun Adegun of Nigeria proudly represented Africa as Skeleton Atheletes at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.

African Stars of Pyeongchang 2018 Seun Adigun and Akwasi Frimpong endorse ‘The Alternative’ as World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Foundation Board convenes for a critical meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital.

Nigerian and Dutch-Ghanaian stars of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics added their names on November 15, 2018 to the fast-rising athlete outpour calling for major changes at WADA. Nigerian Bobsled Captain Adigun and Africa’s first skeleton athlete Frimpong call ‘The Alternative‘ the answer to WADA’s governance problems.

The Athlete-Led Anti-Doping Reform Paper for WADA, ‘The Alternative‘, has been endorsed by the anti-doping leaders of 18 countries, and by the governments, leaders, and athletes participating at the Emergency White House Anti-Doping Summit on October 31. There has been a movement, by reformers, that seems to be inspiring athletes to speak out.

Voices of athletes is spreading fast in a way not seen before in the world of anti-doping. However, there has been some criticism against the reformers – the National Anti-Doping Leaders, athletes and government officials who have united in speaking out – through criticism that they are “primarily Anglo-Saxon Nations”, that these 18 nations, in the view of the World Anti-Doping Agency leadership, do not represent the rest of the world.

Today, there are two voices that are proud to add their support to ‘The Alternative‘. We are also proud to explain why other nations may not be as vocal as some of the nations that have spoken for change already.

Dr. Seun Adigun, D.C. of Nigeria, was the captain of the Nigerian Bobsled Team — the first African nation to participate in the event in the 2018 Olympics. “After we qualified for the Olympics, there was this uproar within Nigeria, the Nigerian diaspora, and non-Nigerian people. People were really excited that there was a winter effort and something positive happening for Nigeria,” said Adigun.

She took this momentum after the Games and has begun building her Nigerian Federation, spreading the love of the sport, and doing what she can to help grow the sport in Nigeria. She has even recruited the first ever men’s bobsled team for Nigeria! Her focus has been on spreading the love for the sport, that anyone can do anything, and that the pursuit of excellence can create dreams you didn’t even know you had.

Another first for the 2018 Games was the first black male African Skeleton Athlete, Akwasi Frimpong. Akwasi wants to be the ‘Hope of a billion‘ African children and show them their dreams of being a doctor, a lawyer, or an Olympian are possible. He wants his example of determination and perseverance as an international athlete to give them a voice to pursue their own dreams.

The focus for both athletes has been on recruiting, building a federation, and anything beyond that has been them relying on and trying to trust the leadership of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and WADA. The recent movement in which athletes have been speaking out and asking for reform is however a new concept for them.

It has created some awareness that I may not have been aware of otherwise and inspires me to do the same – because things have to and must change at the top of WADA. Speaking out and being different is how I’m spreading the love of the sport in Ghana. I want the sport to be clean and fair. There needs to be a change to be able to protect sports, to help us all believe in our leadership again. The leadership is something I have to rely on due to the massive challenges we face as small nations. To guide us in regard to clean sport and regulation, we need a more reliable leadership to follow and guide us. As small nations, like mine in Africa, we focus on building our sports. As a small nation, there is no excuse not to speak out, but we don’t have the same resources as other nations, or as much free time to focus on things we assume our leadership is handling with integrity,” Akwasi said in a press statement.

Akwasi continued that: “Because we have so many more challenges, it is even more important that our leadership be strong and reliable to guide us. I support ‘The Alternative’ as the answer to WADA’s governance problems; I have signed the petition, and think that it is a diplomatic and fair solution to present to WADA. Let’s hope that, given their huge meetings in Azerbaijan this week, that they listen to my view and the view of thousands of others away from their Board table. Anti-doping is a much bigger issue than one Board table of members.

Both Seun and Akwasi feel they are not alone in the challenges they face as small nations. When asked if they had spoken to their Athletes Commission, they both confessed that they didn’t even know if their National Olympic Committee (NOC) had one. They explained the focus for their nations and sports was different, and it hadn’t occurred to them that the Athletes’ Commission might be a resource.

Everyone should be held to the same standard of fairness no matter what country they are representing and which sport they play. We all give so much of ourselves every single day and sacrifice our lives to be the best we can be naturally – no one should be able to dilute those efforts or strip them away by cheating. In any country where there is a doping scandal, the system and the culture that was in place for this type of behavior to be acceptable should be broken down and re-educated to prevent innocent-hearted athletes from being punished in the future,” said Seun.

We, the world’s athletes who support ‘The Alternative’, want a vastly-improved WADA that champions three essential themes: accountability, transparency, and independence.

Now, as you convene around the Board Table in Baku, today is the time to engage and take this once-in-a-generation opportunity for change. Please take the world athletes’ solutions seriously – confidence in WADA is at an all-time low — the statement revealed.

Small nations like ours greatly rely on your guidance and leadership, and we believe this proposal offers some fair and reasonable solutions, concluded the statement which was signed by both atheletes respectively on behalf of their country’s foundation dealing with thier respective winter sports.

Source: Akwasi Frimpong, Ghana Skeleton / Dr. Seun Adigun, D.C., Nigeria Bobsled — Thursday November 15, 2018

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