IPC Athletes Council chair Chelsey Gotell has outlined her views on how WADA can work more closely with Para athletes ©IPC

International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Athletes Council chair Chelsey Gotell, a Paralympic swimmer, has been outlining her views on how the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) can work more closely with athletes.

Gotell, who is Canadian, has recently been appointed to WADA's Athlete Committee, and is a 12-time Paralympic swimming medallist.

Writing on the International Paralympic Committee website on WADA's Play True Day, which took place yesterday, Gotell said she believed creating athlete-centred systems, increasing awareness of the complexity of Para athlete testing, and improving athlete communication and education on their rights and obligations, were three key ways that closer collaboration between athletes and WADA could be achieved.

On athlete input, Gotell, who has been on the IPC Athletes Council for four years wrote: "All sporting organisations should be working for the athletes – they are at the heart of everything being done and are the ones on the front line experiencing the output of work, making them an easy resource to utilise to help systems evolve.

"One of the biggest issues that sporting organisations run into is that even with the best intentions, they may not have the right governance and operational structures in place to support the athlete voice in being truly effective.

"Athletes also need to take the time to learn the intricacies of the organisations they represent or are bringing perspective to – things are rarely as simple as they seem from the outside, most changes take longer to implement, and just because we have been tested throughout our sporting careers, it doesn't make us experts in the overall ecosystem.

"Athletes also need to understand governance and what it means to represent an organisation and how to do that effectively.

"The key to both is creating a strong foundation that truly appreciates having an athlete voice. 

"These organisations have leadership who - at their deepest core - believe in the value of having athlete input and invest the time to uplift them as leaders. 

"They also invest in ensuring their governance and operational structures are appropriately setup to ensure success."

Gotell, who has the condition oculocutaneous albinism, which leads to poor vision, said she was hoping her recent appointment to WADA's Athlete Committee, would help bring WADA closer to the athletes, and added she was encouraged that WADA were thinking about Para athletes more.

Gotell said one of her other key aims was increasing awareness of the complexities of Para athlete testing.

On this point Gotell wrote: "We need to ensure that Para sports are not viewed as a lower risk version of non-disabled sports. 

"So, working with the IPC, I think WADA can play a role in providing stronger education to the overall anti-doping community on why testing of Para athletes is important at a national level.

"This education also needs to lead into reviewing baseline measures for Para athlete testing, and to a more significant and robust risk assessment and output of testing. 

"This would help increase the level of trust among athletes when they line up at the starting line that their competitors have been appropriately tested and are clean."

Gotell added she believed there needed to be better communication and education with Para athletes on their rights and obligations.

On this point Gotell wrote: "I would personally like to see communication and education strategically tailored to who it is speaking to. 

"That comes down to the relationship with athletes and how a message becomes relatable. 

"All athletes need to think about how the system affects them directly.

"Crucially, the Para athlete community needs to better understand its rights and obligations.

"I know fully well that athletes need to be more receptive because I was once one of those blasé athletes.

"In hindsight, I was naive, uneducated and ignorant when it came to my obligations as an athlete and I would be willing to bet that many athletes may function similarly today.

"It is time that, we as athletes, understood the ecosystem better and that organisations find ways to communicate in an open, transparent and athlete-centric way. 

"As athletes, we need to understand our rights and obligations and what a worse-case scenario could look like and we need to continue to work alongside sport organisations to move the dial forward."