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Australian Paralympian Ella Sabljak has gained a seat at the world anti-doping table after she won election to the newly-established 20-member WADA Athlete Council.

The Tokyo 2020 Australian Gliders wheelchair basketball representative said she looked forward to creating relevant relationships, putting forward different perspectives and streamlining messaging between WADA and Australian athletes.

“From a Paralympian’s perspective, we’re always fighting for a seat at the table,” said Sabljak, who was instrumental in setting up the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation (IWBF) Athlete Council in 2020.

“To have representation there I think is going to be pretty powerful.”

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The WADA Athlete Council is being formed through three modes of election. Sabljak’s appointment was through the second group, which was through her International Federation, the IWBF. She is one of five Para-athletes out of the 13 athletes appointed so far. A third group, comprising seven representatives, is yet to be appointed.

WADA President Witold Bańka said earlier this month: “On behalf of WADA, I would like to extend our congratulations to the 13 new members for Groups 1 and 2 of the Agency’s Athlete Council. With this announcement, we are one step closer to our Athlete Council being realised, which is an exciting prospect for everyone involved.”

Sabljak met with her new colleagues via video on Monday night. She said it was a chance to discuss specific goals.

“I’ve worked with a few people from WADA before and they’ve said they’re really active in working with Athlete Commissions, making sure they get the athletes’ perspectives on all things anti-doping and getting messages back to the athletes quickly,” she said.

Sabljak said she had learnt a lot from her experience with the IWBF Athlete Commission, including how to create effective relationships and understanding the decision-making process.

“You do a lot of listening, a lot of understanding about what impacts people most on the ground, learning to convey that message and figuring out how we can influence things.

“The sports are understanding that without the athletes there wouldn’t be a sport. So I think to be able to shape the way a sport is run, by the people it impacts most, is a really good thing.”

By: David Sygall, Paralympics Australia
Posted: 13 September 2022