WADA President, International Anti-Doping Leaders Pledge Support to Athletes

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International Anti-Doping Leaders, including the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) president are standing with the athlete community, pushing for more reform.

At a virtual meeting that took place four years after the McLaren Report led to the Copenhagen Declaration, international anti-doping leaders continued to express support for WADA to go “further and faster with meaningful anti-doping reform.”

According to the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), WADA President Witold Banka announced that the Copenhagen Declaration reform announced four years ago has yet to be implemented. The biggest part of that was the idea that WADA needed to be stronger and more independent, with more autonomy.

The Copenhagen Declaration, which leaders reiterated their strong support for in this week’s meeting, included proposals for:

  • Greater autonomy of WADA and the anti-doping system – particularly with greater independence from sports organizations;
  • Improved governance and transparency at WADA;
  • Increased encouragement, support, recognition and protection of whistleblowers;
  • Support for investigations and adequate sanctioning power

“To operate effectively, and to regain the lost trust of recent years, the clean sport movement’s effectiveness requires that anti-doping organizations can operate with full independence and without undue interference as required by the WADA Code,” a statement by the international leaders stated. “The leaders lend their support to WADA to be strong and firm and to ensure as the Code requires that the full and ongoing independence and autonomy of RUSADA is and should remain a prerequisite for RUSADA’s return to code compliance. The world’s clean athletes need assurance that there is robust, compliant testing in Russia leading into the upcoming Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.

“Today, therefore, four years on from the Copenhagen Declaration, we make a unanimous stand in calling for WADA to be tough and to send a message by action to the athletes of the world that potential undue interference has no place in modern-day anti-doping.”

The independent expert hired to oversee RUSADA resigned form the RUSADA Board after voting against the RUSADA Director General. The situation is particularly alarming for other international leaders since what once looked like progress, could in fact be slipping away.

As a result, these Governments have asked WADA to look at the possibility of amending its rules so that nations which go against the principles of the UNESCO Convention Against Doping in Sport in this way would potentially trigger sanctions under the International Standard for Code Compliance by Signatories.

“This matter has been raised by some concerned Governments, not by WADA’s leadership, and as is the case with any proposal raised by a stakeholder, WADA has an obligation to consider it carefully. We will examine the rules to see if they need to be strengthened in light of the current situation. As always, due process will be followed and this will be a matter for discussion and consultation. Fairness for athletes all over the world remains my number-one priority. I will never let clean athletes become hostages of political games. Under the International Standard for Code Compliance by Signatories there are many possible consequences that do not impact the athletes.

“In this critical time for anti-doping, we need unity, not division. I still stand ready to work with the U.S. Government on this and I am hopeful that it will continue to contribute to the global anti-doping program. But what our stakeholders are telling us is that this episode has highlighted the need for more commitment and accountability within the clean sport community. The only way to preserve the global system is for everyone involved to stand united and work together to make it stronger.”

Banka wrote an open letter to athletes about anti-doping in response:

“Today, I am prepared to reflect on the complex landscape in which WADA and I personally are operating. As I still feel and think like an athlete, I would like to share these thoughts with you, my fellow athletes. WADA was established in 1999 as a unique platform for cooperation between Governments and the Sports Movement, following the failure of actions taken by each of these parties individually. The forces were united to fight doping, the greatest threat to modern sport, more effectively and persistently. For over 20 years, this organization has matured and assumed new responsibilities, setting new standards for the operations of Anti-Doping Organizations worldwide; and, above all – it has tried to meet the increasing expectations of our stakeholders with limited financial means. Of course, mistakes have not been avoided, but only those who do nothing make no mistakes.

“Today, WADA is often targeted by political attacks and games. Various arguments are used in these attacks — ranging from how our activities are financed and who can legitimately represent stakeholder interests to allegations of a lack of transparency. I can assure you that I will not allow WADA to get bogged down in these political games; and that, control of WADA is not for sale, no matter what stakeholder we are dealing with.

“Some critics of WADA allege a lack of transparency. However, I have the impression that the loudest criticism comes from those who, unfortunately, are not known for being particularly transparent themselves.

“I would like to invite everyone to work hand in hand with me to advance our common mission. For several months now I have been engaging with athletes individually, including via social media; have been holding virtual meetings with athlete committees and groups; and, going forward, have many similar meetings planned. I am doing this because I strongly believe that WADA exists for athletes; that we need you on board; and, that we are accountable to you in carrying out our mission.

“Therefore, I strongly encourage you to speak up about Clean Sport. Speak loudly in your countries and in your sports. Criticize us if we deserve it but support our mission.  Please do not be indifferent because, for WADA, you are MOST IMPORTANT. For me, you are MOST IMPORTANT.”

Read the full letter from the WADA president here.

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