Anna Meares & Sarah Kenny - Grassroots to Paris

We talk with champion cyclist Anna Meares, Australia’s Chef de Mission for the Paris Olympic Games, and Sport Integrity Australia’s Advisory Council Chair Sarah Kenny.

From grassroots to Paris

Anna Meares and Sarah Kenny discuss the importance of embedding integrity in sport, how to create a safe environment for athletes to perform in and their roles in influencing the sporting landscape.




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    Anna Meares: Like everything in life, there is a whole lot that happens behind the scenes that people don’t realise. Just like all the athletes are doing with their plans and preparations to go out and compete, we have our plans and processes in place and trust the application of that. I feel like I have an appreciation for it, for the athletes that are there, and I can bring that lens into the work that I’m doing now behind the scenes. 

    Sarah Kenny: Integrity is at the core of sport. You really have to understand most sports are challenged. We’ve got a common problem generally, which is that we’ve got very complex issues, a long list of priorities and we don’t have the resources to do them all in the timeframe we want to do them. There’s a big role we can play in having people out there who are advocates for integrity and just seen enough in sport and in other walks of life that you can make some of these discussions a bit more real and meaningful.



    Podcast Intro: “Welcome to On Side, the official podcast of Sport Integrity Australia. Our mission is to protect the integrity of sport and the health and welfare of those who participate in Australian sport”.

    Tim Gavel: Hello, I’m Tim Gavel. Welcome to Sport Integrity Australia’s podcast On Side. All eyes are on Paris as the Olympic and Paralympic Games draw closer. Sport Integrity Australia in partnership with the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) and Paralympics Australia has released an education course covering all the information athletes and support staff need to know.

    This course will prepare athletes and teams to recognise whereabouts obligations, manage medications and supplements, identify appropriate interactions between adults and young people, how to respond to any approaches to manipulate a competition if they occur and identify where to report any integrity issues while at the Games.

    Sport Integrity Australia is also proud to announce the continued support and extension of the National Integrity Manager program for an additional two years. Funded by Sport Integrity Australia and administered by the Australian Sports Commission, funds are awarded to eligible sports to support the implementation and work of the National Integrity Managers within sports. Successful sports eligible for a maximum of $220,000 split over two years.



    Tim Gavel: Well, what a line-up we have on the show today. Today’s guests are champion cyclist Anna Meares, who is Australia’s Chef de Mission for the Paris Olympic Games, and our Advisory Council Chair Sarah Kenny, herself a former Olympian in the sport of Windsurfing. We discuss the importance of embedding integrity in sport, how to create a safe environment for athletes to perform in and their roles in influencing the sporting landscape.

    Well first up Anna Meares, who’s experienced the highs and lows of an Olympic Games. With 6 medals from 4 Olympic Games, Anna is well placed to mentor and council athletes through the good times and the bad. Anna, welcome to On Side. As a former champion cyclist and now in your role as the Chef de Mission, have you been surprised by the level of activity that goes into making sure that everything goes smoothly for athletes behind the scenes?

    Anna Meares: I got a bit of an insight to it being the Deputy, or General Manager underneath Petria Thomas leading into the Birmingham Commonwealth Games so that was a period where I really had my eyes opened. On that trip I apologised to many of the staff and said thank you because I had no comprehension of how many people operated behind the scenes that did so much work to impact a smooth experience of a Games. I really loved working behind the scenes with the staff being a part of a team, really motivated, driven group of people again, and it just reaffirmed for me that I wanted to work in that space. So now having the role of Chef de Mission, it is, once I had some awareness, it is still eye opening to me the extent of coverage and areas and the people that it takes to make a Games happen.

    Tim Gavel: What is the role of the Chef de Mission? Could you describe it for us?

    Anna Meares: Yeah. So, it's multifaceted, in a nutshell and simply it's, first part of my role is to build relationships with the sports, the coaches, the athletes, the high-performance directors so that I understand what the nuances of each sport is, what sort of support mechanisms they have in place, what they require for competition to be able to be as smooth as possible. Then I take that information and I'll work with my team at the AOC to be able to build the environment and nurture the culture for the team, put those structures in place for those sports that come in under the umbrella of the Australian Olympic Team and support them all the way through games time.

    And then I have a very much front of house role where I am the spokesperson for the team, so good, bad or indifferent I speak for the team at games time and I'm happy to do that. What I'm really loving now is having the opportunity to be the facilitator for the athletes to tell their story as they get selected, and they make the team and be a part of that really positive moment where they become an Australian Olympian.

    Tim Gavel: There's plenty of pressure associated though with an Olympic Games, which is quite unique. I would imagine as a former athlete, a former champion athlete, it gives you a greater understanding of the pressures faced by athletes too.

    Anna Meares: Yeah, yeah. And what I have really enjoyed is being able to provide that perspective to the staff here as well that I'm working with at the AOC, but also appreciating that I didn't know a lot of things when I came into this behind-the-scenes role. The pressure is immense, even talk a bit too, pressure about expectation, stress, anxiety, hope. Hope is a big one that can add to the feeling of pressure and the sheer notion of there's no guarantee at the end of the day, and the shift between psychological pressures too, from that rookie that I was in Athens 2004 to ultimately that matriarchal figure in 2016 those pressures shift.

    I go from loving trying to win and then in some ways fearing what happens when I don't. So, I feel like I have an appreciation for it for the athletes that are there, and I can bring that lens into the work that I'm doing now behind the scenes, but at the same time, eight years has passed since I've been an athlete and there are a lot of changes but in terms of pressure, I think I have some good understanding.

    Tim Gavel: One thing I have noticed at the Olympic Games is the need to create a familiar environment. How have you done this for Paris? What have you done to make it familiar for the athletes?

    Anna Meares: Yeah well, the Games is a really abnormal environment, isn't it? So, what you can bring in and normalise it as much as possible for the athletes is important. Little things like a taste from home in the pantry, in the food pantry we're offering to athletes is things like Weetbix, Vegemite, yogurt pouches, things that are familiar. 

    Athletes will have spent already weeks if not months overseas in preparation, on training camps, through competitions leading into the Olympic Games so when they get a little sense of familiarity and normal, it really warms the heart and boosts the morale and just making the space of accommodation in the village and the sub sites and satellite villages that home away from home where they feel safe to be able to switch off because switching off is as important as switching on, and conserving energy where possible.

    Tim Gavel: What sort of message are you able to give athletes? You mentioned there your experience, the fact that you're going to be pretty thinly spread across the ground. What messages are you going to be able to deliver to athletes to make them feel comfortable in the first place but strive for higher honours to another extent. How do you do that?

    Anna Meares: For me it's just to expressly let them know that I'm there to support them. My job is to take as much shit off their plate as possible so they can just go ahead and do what they are exceptional at doing, is getting the best out of themselves. And ultimately if they don't see me much, that's a thing, because they are relying with the normal people and the normal stuff that they work with, and I will work with their staff as much as I can to minimise that interaction as possible. 

    I'm not there for any other reason but to provide that support to the team, but I'm also open if people want to have a chat with me, if you want to have a coffee, those sorts of things. I want to be approachable if people want to approach me, but otherwise they can just go on and do what they know how to do best.

    Tim Gavel: Because a third of the team are going to be away, aren't they? From the athlete village. So, there are a lot of remote little villages right across France, but also in Tahiti. Is that kind of be hard to manage, do you think logistically?

    Anna Meares: Yeah, it'll be probably the most spread a Games has been and I'll heavily rely on my deputies and Mark Knowles, Kyle Vander-Kuyp, Ken Wallace, Carly McCullough and Bronwen Knox will be able to help provide some leadership to our team. I really am loving working with them. These are athletes who have all been exceptional in their sports, in their discipline disciplines, best in the country, not all of them won gold medals, not all of them have won medals, they cover everything from team sports to individual sports, experience with being a reserve, with being an Olympian, with winning and losing and I think it's a great snapshot of what the team ultimately will be coming Games time, but also the results capacity as well, they get it. It's going to be a challenge. It will be a challenge, but at the same time we're up for it, so.

    Tim Gavel: How do you manage expectation? Because sometimes I have seen it myself from personal experience whereby an athlete will win a silver medal and feel as though they're a failure, even though they've done incredibly well to win a silver medal, but their expectation was gold. How do you manage that expectation?

    Anna Meares: Yeah, it's a good question. Every athlete wants to win. That's why we're in competition, right? We want to win; we believe we're capable of winning which is why it hurts so much when it doesn't happen. My message is and what I'm really passionate about is what is success for our athletes? Let's have that conversation before we even get to the competition field, right? 

    For me, it's not a full stop at the end of gold medal. Success can be winning a silver, winning a bronze, making a final, performing a personal best and act of sportsmanship, an act of sports-womanship and, success is making the team. There are a lot of people who don't get the opportunity to make the team to be an Australian Olympian.

    Why do I have this outlook and philosophy and why do I talk to this? I came home from my fourth Games with a bronze medal which I was so proud of, and it was so hard fought to earn that bronze medal, and a lot of people said to me 'We're sorry. You must be disappointed you didn't win gold.' and I think we forget at times, maybe we've been spoilt in the past by some great acts of sportsmanship and sports-womanship that we forget how hard it is to win, how many people are in the competition, and in doing so we can devalue or discredit the achievement of a silver, of a bronze, of making the final, personal best like I said before. So, it's having those conversations and keeping it real, but also appreciating that expectation and hope is different for everyone.

    Tim Gavel: Yes. You mentioned there the joy of winning bronze, I guess part of that was the journey that you'd been through with that horrific injury and people amazed that you got back on the bike in the first place, but then to come away with the bronze medal, I think that was part of it, wasn't it?

    Anna Meares: Yes, and a lot of people don't know that journey that part of behind the scenes. It's easy to look at a race that's 10 seconds long or two hours long, or a period of different competitions to qualify through rounds, but this is a group of people who work on a four-year cycle and in some cases a whole lifetime behind the scenes for those 10 seconds, those moments that occur in 10 seconds, in two hours and over a period of time.

    So, like everything in life, there is a whole lot that happens behind the scenes that people don't realise and that can affect how people see what that success looks like at the end of the day.

    Tim Gavel: Before we talk about the fact that you do have to select the flag bearer, I wanted to ask you about the challenges in Paris. You've got the heat, you've got the traffic, you've got an atmosphere that is going to be second to none, there are a lot of challenges aren't there, facing the Australians as they head across to Paris?

    Anna Meares: There's a lot of challenges but that's my job and my team's job here at the AOC to minimise those challenges and work towards creating resolutions for them so that the athletes and the sports and the teams don't have to worry about that. 

    So, I think it will be a great Games, like any Games it will have its challenges, that's fine, but we have a really experienced team that's capable of adjusting very quickly to circumstances as they arise, and we'll do that as each occasion arises.

    Tim Gavel: Well, some of those circumstances as you have briefly mentioned, in the past you've got the potential for athletes wanting to protest, you've got security, you've got a number of issues that you have prepared for, but sometimes they're beyond your control.

    Anna Meares: Yeah, yeah and there's no guarantee in anything is there? But what you can put the guarantee in is the processes that you have in place and planned in preparation just like all the athletes are doing with their plans and preparations to go out and to compete, we have our plans and processes in place and our and trust the application of that and you give yourself the best chance of achieving the best outcome at the end with those processes and backing that in.

    Tim Gavel: Now you have carried the flag.

    Anna Meares: Yes.

    Tim Gavel: It's a huge responsibility to select the person that carries the flag. Does that weigh heavily on your shoulders?

    Anna Meares: Yeah. Well when that realisation came to me, I was already well into this role and just the, I don't know exactly how to explain it, just the real happiness and excitement I felt that I had the opportunity to bestow this onto flag bearers for Paris or be two, a male and a female as it was in Tokyo because I remember what that moment was like for me when Kitty asked me to be the flag bearer. 

    I know what that meant to me, I know what that felt like and this will be a really life changing experience for those athletes that I choose with the support of the AOC team behind me to carry that flag for Australia and I'm looking forward to those moments.

    Tim Gavel: You're the only Australian athlete to have won individual medals at 4 consecutive Olympic Games, I guess it was pretty obvious to people there that you were going to be the one that was going to be carrying the flag, what was is like?

    Anna Meares: Oh, that's nice. Thank you. What was the question?

    Tim Gavel: What was it like to carry the flag?

    Anna Meares: Oh. I will never forget walking into the Maracana stadium in Rio behind Argentina, who we were having a singing contest in the tunnel to see who which nation was louder and then the little flick of light at the end of that tunnel that got bigger and bigger and bigger as we got closer to entering the stadium, and then feeling the wall of noise and the wall of colour that came at us as Australia was announced into that stadium and I realised then that I was leading a really respected nation on the sporting international stage and I had my teammates behind me and I will never forget that feeling, like I have goosebumps now I'm just trying to recall it.

    I felt a little bit robbed because normally you get to walk a whole lap of the stadium whereas in Rio, they just walked straight across, so I felt like I had a short run at it, but for me it changed my whole experience of my last Olympic campaign. It took the pressure off, it made me feel like, my contribution to sport and Olympic sport in particular in Australia was recognised and I was really grateful for that opportunity.

    Tim Gavel: Now I was at the velodrome, London 2012 alongside Drew Morphett when you were having that incredible race in the sprint final with Victoria Pendleton, was that the highlight do you think for you, just that the atmosphere, the anticipation and the way that things turned out?

    Anna Meares: It's certainly one of the highlights. It's hard to go past, that's for sure. For the preparation and the execution, there was none better. My first gold in Athens was very similar but it wasn't as strategic, my silver in Beijing after my accident, I put on the same level. It's like choosing between your children really. 

    Each medal has a story and an experience, and I'm reliving them in very simple forms now that I have a daughter and a son who are trying to piece together what Mommy did and what mine does and why these medals are here and what those stories are attached to them.

    So, it's, upon reflection and with time and perspective outside of being an athletic Olympian, a competitive Olympian, I feel like I'm growing into being an Olympian and I'm realising that that follows me for life. Being an athlete is for a very short window of time, but being an Olympian follows me for life.

    Tim Gavel: The Victoria Pendleton race, what made that special was that of course she was the hometown favourite and you had to silence a very raucous crowd amongst other things to win that race.

    Anna Meares: Yeah, that was huge pressure, huge rivalry and let's not forget I probably had the worst race of my career a few days before and absolutely stuffing up the Kieran as world champion, which Pendleton won the gold in. So, walking back into an environment where I felt I had failed the day before and then continuing to try and excel and succeed was really difficult. It took a lot of emotional toll and psychological toll, but I had a great support network and a great team behind me, and we just backed the preparation.

    Yes, it was high pressure, yes, it was high expectation, we had a plan, we backed it up and we took on the best in the world and we were able to better than the best in the world and become that number one, it was a pretty amazing moment.

    Tim Gavel: Let's talk about you as a leader now and I guess you are a trailblazer to a certain degree. You mentioned there Petria the Chef de Mission for the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, you've got Kate with the Paralympics, there is a feeling that women are emerging as real leaders in sport. Is that the way that you feel at the moment? Do you feel as though you're leading the way?

    Anna Meares: I just love this role. I'm grateful that Ian Chesterman saw in me a capacity to be a great leader for the Australian Olympic team. I'm grateful for Petria who was the first female Chef de Mission for the Commonwealth Games for Australia, saw something in me to take her to work with her as a general manager and across the board now to see women in the Chef roles at Commonwealth Games, at Paralympics and the Aus Olympic team is really special and we have a great friendship and connection and support that we provide for each other and what I have noticed is that even some of them athletes have come to me and said 'Just seeing you in this role makes me realise there's opportunity for me when I finish competing' and that's really nice to hear.

    Tim Gavel: Have you found barriers over the years to try and get into these leadership roles? Do you feel as though it's easier now or do you feel as though there still are barriers?

    Anna Meares: Well, sometimes the biggest barrier is experience, especially coming out from an extremely long athletic career. I was involved in the sport for 22 years and 16 of those years were at the elite high-performance level and my experience was very much athlete based so it was hard to get experience outside of that in roles. 

    And so, I was very grateful when Petria offered me that opportunity because I think it started to, the ball to roll, so to speak, for me to be where I am today.

    Tim Gavel: Now the big picture, what do you hope your legacy is going to be following the Olympic Games?

    Anna Meares: If I can shift the narrative and the pressure around what expectation and success is for our athletes and build relationships between them, the media and the public that follow our Australian Olympic team along, I would be really proud of that. I would be really proud to be able to help people see that behind the facade of an athlete or the leader, of a coach, that they are people at the end of the day who experience the exact same emotions and stresses as everybody else and to just bring that level of pressure down a little bit.

    Tim Gavel: Yes, they're seen as superhuman by many, but they're very vulnerable to a lot of extent. Just, we haven't seen too much of medal counts and medal predictions in the lead up to these games. I think the AOC's done a very good job in downplaying those expectations because we used to have projected medal tables, I remember them well over the years, but we don't seem to have those anymore.

    Anna Meares: It's nice to feel like there's not a competition within the competition. There's enough pressure in trying to prepare for the biggest multi-sport competition in the world without feeling like you've got to fit somewhere on a medal tally, I would have really enjoyed the reprieve from that, and if you allow the athletes in the sports to have the scope to focus on that process, the outcome to look after itself. 

    What I'm excited about for Paris is the breadth of sports that are showing great results leading into these games, so I'm looking forward to seeing all of them at their best capacity.

    Tim Gavel: So finally, the big question, you've got, how many baristas are going to these Olympic Games?

    Anna Meares: 3!

    Tim Gavel: 3 baristas.

    Anna Meares: 3 baristas [LAUGHTER].

    Tim Gavel: You know you're going to cop it from the French who say, 'Well listen, can't we make coffee?', but you've got your own baristas?

    Anna Meares: Yeah. Well, you know, it was interesting because my first games I didn't go to was Tokyo and when I saw some of the things that were put into the village I was really surprised and I asked the athletes when I got into this role, one of the biggest question was 'Is the barista coming back? is the barista coming back?', and I said 'Why was it important?' and they said 'Well because it was normal. We all have coffee and socialisation around having coffee or a cup of tea or hot chocolate now and it created a space for them to be social outside of their own sports so that's important to them, we'll put that in again.

    Tim Gavel: Good on you. All the best, Anna. I'm sure you'll do a great job, but thanks very much for joining On Side with Sport Integrity Australia.

    Anna Meares: Pleasure.

    Tim Gavel: Thank you.

    Anna Meares: Thank you.

    Podcast transition: You're listening to On Side, the official podcast of Sport Integrity Australia.



    Tim Gavel: Sarah Kenny is no stranger to Sport Integrity Australia. As the Chair of our Advisory Council, Sarah is also an accomplished lawyer and World Sailing vice president, and she joins us today.

    Sarah, you have a very wide skillset as a lawyer, as a high-level sports administrator and as a former athlete. Are you able to mould them into one for the various roles that you have in sport?

    Sarah Kenny: Yes, I think in a funny way, my entire career led me to a role like this one with Sport Integrity Australia. Being a lawyer by profession, integrity and proper practise and process is really at the heart of what you do day in day out and you have this sort of higher obligation as an officer of the court, which really is quite different to a lot of careers and I think just like it was in my professional career, integrity is at the core of sport.

    So that background as well as really seeing sports through from a competitive level, through being a parent of athletes in pathway and Olympic programmes, being on the board of an NSO and then now on the governing body of an International Federation, it gives you a fabulous perspective on sport and you really need that with integrity matters because they're pretty complex and the solutions are not straightforward.

    So, I think the broader your experience in sport and sort of aligned fields where integrity is at the core of the field, the better value you will contribute.

    Tim Gavel: Just in terms of your role with World Sailing, is there a feeling do you feel as though because you have this wide range that you're able to resonate with what is happening at the lower level at the grassroots in your sport?

    Because that is one of the criticisms of management in sport, is that they don't really know what's going on at the bottom level, do you feel as though you've got a good grasp of that because of your association with kids and people coming through the sport as well?

    Sarah Kenny: I think I absolutely got that from my role in Australia and the roles in Australian Sailing and also though from being a parent of kids involved from, just beginners wanting to enjoy the sport through to one of which is now in high performance sport.

    So, I think it's quite hard if you don't have that experience, then suddenly being in an international federation or at that level because you do need, I think to have that broader understanding of your members at the international level of the countries, the sports in each country, but you really have to understand most sports are challenged.

    We've got a common problem generally which is that we've got very complex issues, a long list of priorities and we don't have the resources to do them all in the time frame we want to do them and I think having an understanding of just the pressures that the national bodies are under, helps you when you're at the international level to really think about how you're going to come up with rules, requirements, processes that not just are the right thing for the sport but that our participants can actually engage with and deliver on and commit to.

    Tim Gavel: Do you think younger sailors coming through have a real awareness of integrity issues in sport, whether it be gambling, anti-doping, abuse by coaches, etcetera?

    Do you think that there is a greater understanding now of some of those integrity issues which may not have had that awareness in the past?

    Sarah Kenny: Look, I think there are for a lot of reasons. Generally, the NSOs are much better equipped, much more aware and they've got toolkits like the Sport Integrity National Integrity Framework, they've got access to really good education products. I know that the drug education is excellent, it becomes a prerequisite to enter into the National Youth Championships at least.

    The unique thing about sailing too I think is we have a pretty complex set of racing rules. It's self-regulating largely to the extent that the competitors on the water have to determine whether or not someone's done the wrong thing and if they think they have, then they have to formally protest.

    It's a pretty challenging thing for young sports people in our sport to protest and then go through what's a bit of an archaic process often, but we've softened that a bit with more modern techniques and arbitration, so I think they might have a high degree of awareness about rules and particularly with sailing, it's a sport where if you don't follow the rules there's a real safety impact with collisions and often we've got young kids are responsible of the helm of a boat, they really do need to understand the rules of the road.

    So I think in general terms, there's a higher degree of awareness perhaps than in other sports because of that level of responsibility they have at a young age, but also I think you know just the degree of education that's out there now and they get a lot of that too in in institutional programmes, within schools but it certainly far exceeds anything that was around when I was in that position where really it was non-existent.

    Tim Gavel: Yes, I was just going to ask you about what it was like when you were coming through as a windsurfer. What was the education like back then in terms of anti-doping and some of the integrity issues that we've talked about?

    Sarah Kenny: I mean the word that comes to mind is non-existent.

    Tim Gavel: Yeah.

    Sarah Kenny: It was, yeah. I mean, we didn't have women's events in Olympic Sailing at the time. I mean, I was lucky enough to do a demonstration event in windsurfing, but I really don't have a lot of recollection of anything around these topics from those decades ago. I mean, it was there of course in part, but it wasn't anywhere like what we have in sport today. We've, come a long, long way in in those few short decades.

    Tim Gavel: Just have a look at some of the issues that are facing sport integrity wise now, what do you see as the main threats to the integrity of sport?

    Sarah Kenny: Anti-doping continues to be a major issue and as we've seen, it's not an exact science and it's a constant challenge to stay ahead of the issues in that field. That won't go away. I think the challenge there a lot is around the education, not just athlete education, the whole infrastructure but also obviously on the science side, continually getting the science right and proper process right and helping ensure that we keep sport clean.

    That the agency in Australia were premature, worldwide we're pretty mature so I guess relative to other integrity issues in sport, there is a lot of investment money, time that goes into those issues and perhaps that's a distinction we can draw with the other integrity issues which haven't had the same investment and infrastructure and I think increasingly we're seeing those threats, the requirement for fair sport, the match fixing, corruption issues are continuing to emerge and often they are at the lower levels of sport so they can be even harder to identify and to address.

    The match fixing and those issues, the broader issues around advertising of gambling in sport, I think they're all very valid issue issues but as well just the whole safeguarding issue. It's a tricky issue, the wellbeing of athlete's issues, they're all difficult issues to address when we're trying to achieve high performance. I think they will be big areas of focuses and can continue to be real challenges for sport.

    Tim Gavel: How important is your role do you think in terms of the context of Australian sport as the Chair of Sport Integrity Australia?

    Because I'd imagine now you take a forensic approach to anything relating to integrity in sport where it may not have been that forensic before. Do you feel as though you've heavily invested in preserving Australian sport and the integrity of sport?

    Sarah Kenny: Yeah look, I think the unique thing about the Advisory Council is the agency itself is set up to provide a body that delivers a coordinated approach to addressing integrity threats and trying to keep sport safe, the Council was created by the same Act of Parliament and it was designed to provide advice and importantly, we provide strategic advice, we don't get involved in individual cases or investigations.

    But where I found we've had the most impact is where we can help influence and inform in the earlier days of developing new policies, strategies, approaches, initiatives, the Council is up to 10 people drawn from a very wide array of professional and sporting backgrounds.

    I know it's diverse as law enforcement, child protection, lawyers, we have athletes who've come from very different backgrounds and most have long years of experience in a couple of fields, and when we get the chance to talk about an issue early enough, the context and richness of the discussion is, it's really inspiring and the test for me of the value is we're not just my fellow council members, but when David and his team from the agency say after a meeting that we have provided incredibly valuable insight and input and food for thought and that's what we're there for.

    And I think it's what's needed because the issues are complex. As an agency we're a ground breaker and a trailblazer, there are not many like us and these issues, a lot of them are new and evolving and sport is complex because every sport is a little bit different and the issues manifest differently so there's not always a one size fits all solution, but I think with the power of this body of experienced people from all different backgrounds and experience, we come up with really interesting insight and if that's given to the team early enough where we can shape, we can, cut off, we can help direct where collectively we think the agency can make the most difference then yeah, I think it will help influence outcomes and much more efficiently and in a timely manner.

    Tim Gavel: Because I would imagine you're in quite a unique position, all of you on the Advisory Council because you're in touch with the grassroots community to a certain extent and they'd be asking you questions about integrity issues relating to sport and you can feed those questions back to Sport Integrity Australia about what people are talking about, what people want to know about.

    Sarah Kenny: And that's the power of think of a body like that. There are a few other examples of it in other fields, but I think in sport, everyone relates to it, and everyone wants to be engaged in it and we want sport to be something that's accessible to everybody.

    So, the broader your leadership group is, your influence group, your advisory group, I think the better input you're going to have because you're constantly getting feedback as you describe which helps educate and helps people think a bit more outside the box for creative, but also more relevant solutions. It's really not much good coming up with something that is never going to be workable and there have been occasions where something's been presented heading in a particular direction and due to some specific experience and background one of our council members has offered some insight where it actually changed the shape of that initiative.

    Tim Gavel: Yeah. What about you as a person? Is it fascinating to you on a weekly basis, on a daily basis to look at integrity issues relating to sport?

    Sarah Kenny: Look it is. It's something that I'm fascinated by but also, I'm passionate about because I think integrity is at the core of a strong culture, whether that's in sport or otherwise. I've very much been of the school of it's not just what you say, it's actually doing what you say, and I think that can be quite hard sometimes in sport. You can have all the integrity policies, processes, procedures in place but unless you're actually delivering on them, they're just words on the page.

    So I think we still have quite a few challenges in terms of breaking down some of the traditional boundaries in sport and there's a big role that we can play in having people out there who are advocates for integrity and who just seen enough, I guess in sport and other walks of life that you can make some of these discussions a bit more real and meaningful and help change sport for the better for everyone and that's at every level whether it's grassroots and trying to encourage participation or whether it's retention and ultimately success at the highest levels.

    Tim Gavel: And because your opinion holds such gravitas, I'd imagine that in a community setting you've almost got to be careful about what you say because it can be deemed almost as policy. And 'Oh, this is what Australia is going to be doing'.

    Sarah Kenny: [LAUGHTER] Yeah, look and again key, the council operates as a body, it's not me or any individual's view it's a collective view and input and we give advice to the Minister and to the CEO so yeah, I mean you won't see me in the media commenting on this stuff very often, if at all.

    Tim Gavel: Yes. And just looking at your career in law, you've had a very extensive career in law after graduating from Sydney University, is that a real passion for you? Law and combining it with sport to a certain extent.

    Sarah Kenny: Yeah. Look, I was pretty lucky there. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that I'd been able to combine law and sport quite literally, although I was a corporate lawyer for much of my career. I was fortunate in my second year at Herbert Smith Freehills that I worked with the then honorary solicitor of what was then the Australian Rugby Union, now Rugby Australia and I worked with him on an amazing array of matters including drafting the first drug policy for the rugby union.

    Some years later I was told that when we presented that policy I was actually the first female ever to present to a council meeting in rugby in Australia, so that really got me interested in sport and the law and it wasn't a full time practise but it was an adjunct practise and I was involved in the in the initial group of people that set up ANZLA, the Australian New Zealand Sports Law Association and worked on two of the early conferences so started to become part of a network of people who were sort of applying law to sport.

    And then just over the years, where the matter was big enough that they were interested in using a firm the size of Freehills. I've had an amazing opportunity to work on matters including in the adding teams to the NRL, the first privatisation of the Swans, I did the privatisation of the Knights in the NRL. for five years leading up to the Olympics I pretty much worked full time on matters relating to the Olympic Games, working for everybody but the organising committee.

    Did a huge amount of work on all the infrastructure including the stadium and I will never forget the day we went to that NRL double header with 100,000 people for the opening of that stadium, it was really probably one of the absolute highlights of my career in sport just seeing the output of an enormous amount of blood, sweat and tears and a huge amount of pressure.

    There's nothing like an Olympic Games deadline for pressure in sport. And then since then, yeah, continue to do work in sport and of course then the admin roles outside of sport so I think yeah, it's kept my career in the long-long because I've been able to do these really interesting matters in sport.

    Tim Gavel: No, you've had a great career. I just wanted to find out as last question, before you became the Chair of Sport Integrity Australia's Advisory Council, did you have an awareness of Sport Integrity Australia and before that ASADA?

    Sarah Kenny: Yeah. Obviously on the anti-doping function, everyone was well aware of it. I'd been following the Wood Royal Commission and then the recommendations that came out of that. But I think it sort of suddenly leapt out and was there and operating and we didn't come into, we weren't appointed until a little bit after that, so I think it's taken generally people a little bit longer to understand what Sport Integrity Australia is and the extensiveness of its functions and obviously most people are familiar with the anti-doping and that tends to get a lot of the media attention, but the awareness I think now is tenfold through just that concerted effort of what you do and your team and David and the team do with that constant stream of education about these issues in all bettering sport.

    Tim Gavel: And so, you obviously enjoy the role, and you enjoy being associated with Sport Integrity Australia so that's great. Sarah, thanks very much for joining us on On Side today. It's been fascinating just to find out a bit about your background but also your passion for sport and law. Thank you very much.

    Sarah Kenny: Yeah. Thanks Tim, been my pleasure.



    Tim Gavel: Thanks for listening to On Side, I’m Tim Gavel. And in the build-up to the Paris Olympics and Paralympics, we’ll be back soon with another episode of on On Side.

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    For more information on Sport Integrity Australia, please visit our website or check out our Clean Sport app.