Lately, sport governing bodies have been in the news, but for all the wrong reasons. FIFA’s corruption scandal that revealed millions in kickbacks and bribes, and more recently the Russian doping scandal that has hacked-out fault-lines in Athletics governance right up to the head of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).
Take a brief look at Prime Minister Trudeau’s cabinet mandate letter to Ms. Qualtrough, the newly-minted Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, and you would think that life is peachy-keen for sport governance at home and abroad. Instead, Ms. Qualtrough’s mandate draws attention to the need for a national concussion plan, as well as the need for more funding for disabled persons in sport. These are both excellent endeavours, and further inclusivity is needed in Canada’s sport policy. But do these two issues really address the major problems facing Canada’s sport communities today? If I had a private audience with Ms. Qualtrough, I would suggest that a few more tasks be added to the Ministry’s docket:
- Work to ensure that Canada’s elite athletes can compete against international rivals who are steroid-free.
- Work with international partners to set standards against corruption in leading sporting bodies.
- Promote policy changes that encourage parity in television coverage of both women’s and men’s sport.
- Promote investments in women’s professional sport.
- Enforce doping standards for professional sports in Canada, North America, and the world as they are currently lax in comparison to Olympic-sanctioned sports.
This close to the Rio Olympics 2016, we should be alarmed by the unprecedented levels of corruption and systemic cheating uncovered in Russia this past month. Five other countries are currently non-compliant with World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) standards as well. But before we act all pious, Canada has its own kind of doping woes to address: those within Canadian professional sport. Just this past summer, WADA denounced the CFL for its irresponsible drug policy.
If Canada is to “play true” like WADA demands of us, Canada needs to address pressing concerns of doping within professional sports. Canada also needs to address the disparaging fact that in North America today, women get less TV sports coverage than they did 25 years ago.
Sports are said to reveal character and to build integrity. If our sport policy sends the message that it’s okay to cheat and to be sexist, then that reveals a lot about us as Canadians. The time is now for change; let’s hope the Trudeau government can deliver on the Minister of Sport’s portfolio as well.
Olivia Merritt is a second year Master’s student at NPSIA in the International Organizations and Global Public Policy stream. She is interested in a variety of research topics, including social inequality in the developing world, as well as global health policy. A native of Victoria, B.C., Olivia is a varsity athlete at Carleton, competing for both the rugby and track and field teams.
Featured image from Flickr