IOC member Kirsty Coventry – “We will catch dope cheats”

By iSportconnect | May 4, 2016

It was a story that rocked athletics, and sport, to its core. Russia was accused of state-sponsored doping in November last year.

Russia’s involvement at the Olympics in Rio hinges on WADA and the IAAF being satisfied that Russia has made genuine changes. So far the outcome is far from clear, with WADA saying Russia still has some way to go.

Zimbabwean gold medallist and IOC member Kirsty Coventry sits on the WADA commission and foundation board and she admits that she was surprised by the level of doping she’s discovered since taking up the role.

“Sitting on the commission has really opened my eyes – previously I was very much proud of the fact that swimming was a very clean sport but I don’t necessarily have the same feeling going into Rio. I didn’t realise the amount of systematic doping – not just in Russia but in other countries.”

“As athletes we do everything we can in training to make sure that we’re at our peak and to be in the last 6 months of my career and recognising people’s names in tests – that they’ve been caught doping – is a little bit hard, but it’s a challenge and with social media now, no one can hide – that’s a good thing.”

“If you are cheating, we will catch you; it might not be right now but we are working on new intelligence and while it’s hard to ask people to be brave enough to do so, if you know it’s happening come to us and give us the information to help us stop the cheats.”


It was a message Brian Cookson, President of the UCI, echoed in his exclusive interview with iSportconnect, which you can read here –

“You can separate sport into two groups, there are those sports that have a doping problem and are trying to deal with it, and I think we are one of the leaders there, and there are those sports that have a doping problem and are still in denial about it. Sooner or later if you don’t take this problem seriously it will come up and bite you on the backside.”

Coventry, a member of iSportconnect, is determined to help the sports and countries that have had problems, and wants to see a compliant Russia at the Games.

“WADA is continually working with Russia and all other countries that have been non-compliant to get them back to being compliant and that’s ongoing.”

Coventry also spoke about the new Olympic plans to reach more people than ever before, by moving its coverage further into the digital world.

2016 will see the launch of new over-the-top (OTT) platform ‘The Olympic Channel’, which will offer Olympic sports 24 hours a day.

It’s hoped that the channel will bring in a younger audience, to perhaps discover new sports or even take them up.


“I think we need to stay relevant in today’s times and The Olympic Channel will allow us to reach the younger generation and be able to hear back. With social media it’s opened so many things and to be able to get honest feedback will be really helpful – especially when it’s coming from the younger generation that are techno-savvy and maybe aren’t playing as many sports.”

“The president said ‘get the couch potatoes active’ and ‘get people re-engaged in community’ and hopefully those are some of the things we can achieve with The Olympic Channel.”

Having grown-up and discovered the sport of swimming in Zimbabwe, Kirsty went on to gain the most medals for a female swimmer in history while also becoming Africa’s most successful Olympian of all time.

She now sits on both the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee and National Olympic Committees of Africa and says working to promote the Olympic movement across the continent has its difficulties.

“It comes with more challenges than developing sport in first world countries, I have the opportunity to live and train and see different sports and how they are run in a first world country, the knowledge and experience I’ve gained to take back and improve our sporting structures and improve the mind-set that a sport you’re good at can become a profession – I think that’s something we struggle with in Africa.”

“I think sport can play a huge role in equality and in pure development and strengthening of community; people talk about the role of Rugby in 1995, I got to see that in 2004 and 2005 when Zimbabwe was going through hard times – but when I got home it’s like the problems didn’t exist as everyone just wanted to celebrate.”

“The power sport has in educating and bringing about equality is truly significant it’s just a case of being able to find a means to create that environment.”


As with almost every Olympic Games any issues regarding infrastructure or safety are heightened, with UCI Chairman Cookson admitting he is ‘concerned’ about the velodrome for the Rio games.

Kirsty – who will be competing in her final games before retiring in Brazil – believes there are no concerns on the aquatics side.

“The aquatics centre from what I’ve heard there have been no issues, they held a test event a couple of weeks ago, the roof is a little bit open so it might be a bit cool but as swimmers we’re used to that, I think from an aquatics side of things, it’s looking very good.”

The ‘Golden Girl’ of Zimbabwe has only been a member of the IOC since 2012, so while she may have cemented her legacy as an athlete but perhaps her legacy within the IOC is just beginning.




Coventry profileIn 2004, Kirsty won her first Olympic gold medal in Athens as well as silver and bronze.The moment marked the beginning of a record-breaking athletic career, with Kirsty ultimately becoming one of the world’s highest achieving female swimmers. She went on to win another gold and three silver medals at the Beijing Olympic Games – a shining light for her fellow African athletes across all sporting disciplines

In 2012, Kirsty was elected to the International Olympic Committee’s Athletes’ Commission, a tremendous honor with a enormous responsibility. She will serve as a Member for eight years. As part of this she is also a member of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)

Her membership on various Committees in Zimbabwe is playing a key part in the furthering of the global Olympic movement and the development of sport in general. As part of her efforts to develop and support athletes in Zimbabwe, Kirsty sits on the board of the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee.

Kirsty’s isportconnect-profile-widget