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Sport, Health & Wellbeing

A warrior for the integrity of sports

Dr Catherine Ordway’s PhD, awarded at the University of Canberra graduation ceremony recently, was the culmination of over 30 years of study, research, teaching and working in the complex world of law and sport.

Raised in South Australia, Catherine’s journey began in 1988 at Adelaide University, before she went on to complete a Bachelor of Arts and Law double degree. A Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice Law followed, as did a role with leading Canberra legal firm Snedden Hall & Gallop – today, she’s a Senior Consultant (Sports Law) with the firm.

Away from the legal sphere, Catherine was also a talented sportswoman, representing Australia in Olympic handball, competing for the ACT in rugby union and fencing at an intervarsity level.

In the lead up to the Sydney 2000 Summer Olympics, she combined her love of sport with her passion for the law, working for legal firm Browne and Co, which had been engaged by the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC). 

Catherine prepared anti-doping policies for the AOC and worked to ensure that the Olympic Committee’s intellectual property rights were protected.

It effectively set her on her present course, as she rose to become one of the world’s leading experts on anti-doping policy and sports integrity.

Plenty of hard work got her to this point, including a role with the Norwegian Olympic Committee as the lead for anti-doping policies and ethics, a stint as the head of Doping Control with the Asian Games, and becoming head of Legal with the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA), as well as consulting with a range of international sporting organisations and anti-doping agencies.

Catherine is also an advocate for gender equality, and as such, was a co-founding member of international networking group Women in Sports Law.

In more recent times Catherine has become an Assistant Professor in Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Canberra, lecturing in Sport and the Law, Performance Integrity and Athlete Management.

Her linkage with UC starting when she backfilled a teaching position in Business Politics and Sport.

“I loved it,” Catherine said. “But I was told that if I wanted to do it permanently, I had to have a PhD.”

So in 2013, she set out on the long road towards a PhD. This year, she was awarded her doctorate, for her thesis entitled Protecting Sports Integrity: Sport Corruption Risk Management Strategies.

“It has been an enjoyable journey,” said Catherine. “I did my thesis through publication – it enabled me to get my ideas out, and to have clarity. When you publish, there is an editorial process, and it is quite a robust one.”

Despite her vast experience and life-attained skills, there was little that prepared Catherine for that moment of doctoral completion, acceptance of the thesis and finally graduation.

“People told me that when I did hand in my PhD that it would be a relief – and that was  absolutely the most overwhelming feeling!” she said. “Getting my doctorate is a real joy, and I want to to share it with everybody – and to thank my family and friends.”

Those were the people who surrounded her, as she received her PhD.

This has added significance for Catherine, as she is first in her family to go to university.

“It’s very special,” she said. “Getting my PhD is not something I thought that I would ever do, it wasn’t an aspiration. I thought a PhD needed to be science-based and I didn’t think about developing my thesis from a sports management perspective, or even what I might be able to do with it in the future.

“But from a consulting perspective, it really adds gravitas to what I have to say, and I have now become part of a larger tradition of people who are thinkers and contributors to the knowledge in my field. So I feel very special to be part of that journey.”

Catherine says that she is loving her time at UC.

“I have a wonderful Dean in Michelle Lincoln,” she said. “It’s incredible to be supported in the way that we are, at the Faculty of Health, and to be able to work collaboratively in a multi-disciplinary way.”

The future looks incredibly bright for Catherine. She has become one of this country’s most sought-after commentators when it comes to integrity in sport and anti-doping related issues. She is also on a fast track to become an Associate Professor at UC.

“I think sports management exists to have a positive impact on sport,” she said. “My interests lie in supporting and protecting the integrity of sports, finding ways to encourage more people to play sports and to bring back the joy and friendship inherent to it.”

She also recognises the freedom that academia provides in speaking on issues and its impact in influencing policy makers.

It makes her journey towards a PhD that much more worthwhile.

Photos by John Masiello and Madeleine Wood

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