WADA Athlete Committee proposes development of Charter of Athlete Rights and commits to hosting a Global Athlete Anti-Doping Forum in 2018.
The Athlete voice, compliance and whistleblowing were three leading themes to emerge from the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA’s) 13th Annual Symposium held this week at the SwissTech Convention Center (STCC) in Lausanne, Switzerland. Convened from 13-15 March under the theme ‘Tackling our Challenges and Strengthening the Future of Clean Sport’, the Agency welcomed a record delegation of over 740 delegates from around the world.
The Symposium, which is widely recognized as the leading fixture on the anti-doping calendar, attracted anti-doping experts from International Sport Federations (IFs), National Anti-Doping Organizations (NADOs), Regional Anti-Doping Organizations (RADOs), Major Event Organizers (MEOs), National Olympic Committees (NOCs), WADA-accredited laboratories and, for the first time, government representatives; as well as, more than 90 international media.
In particular, the three-day Symposium resulted in delegate support for:
- WADA’s enhanced compliance monitoring program and implementation of graded and meaningful sanctions for non-compliance that will further enhance athletes’ confidence in clean sport.
- The Agency’s enhanced investigations and whistleblower program, which through WADA’s new Speak Up! Program will encourage athletes and others to come forward within a safe and confidential environment.
- The Athletes’ call for development of a Charter of Athlete Rights and Responsibilities; and, convening of a Global Athlete Anti-Doping Forum in 2018 to further capture the voice of clean athletes.
- All stakeholders to work together in a constructive and cooperative manner towards the common goal of clean sport.
WADA President, Sir Craig Reedie, opened the Symposium by reflecting on 2016, which all would agree was a tumultuous period for anti-doping and sport; and, reminding participants of the stakeholder consensus reached during the Agency’s November 2016 Foundation Board. “The Board reached consensus on a series of recommendations related to compliance, whistleblowing, governance, WADA-accredited laboratories, IT security and more – all that will strengthen and empower WADA to be fit for the future and able to protect the rights of clean athletes worldwide.“ “Suffice to say that, in order for WADA to fulfill what’s expected and deserved by clean athletes, as the Leader of Clean Sport, the Agency must secure funding that is well beyond its current USD 30 million annual budget – a matter that is being explored.”
The Athlete voice was well represented during the Symposium; in particular, due to the attendance of over 25 WADA Athlete Committee Members and IF and NADO Athlete Committee Chairs. Recalling a challenging 2016, and referencing the many appeals by athletes that their rights be recognized and protected vis-à-vis clean sport, WADA’s Athlete Committee Chair, Beckie Scott, proposed development of a Charter of Athlete Rights and Responsibilities. The proposed Charter, which would involve significant stakeholder consultation before being signed on to by athletes, and ratified by anti-doping organizations worldwide, could include such elements as: access to education, privacy protection and legal representation. The Athlete Committee also proposed a separate Call to Action, which would identify and address the top athlete concerns as a priority, i.e. the need for increased education, trust, resourcing and compliance by ADOs. “I’m very excited by the lively conversation and the positive reaction that we received,” said Scott. “It’s a clear endorsement by this representative group that our proposal is critically important; and that, through stakeholder consultation, we can develop a powerful instrument that will address the athletes’ call that their rights be protected.”
To fully embrace the athlete voice, the Athlete Committee also committed to convene a Global Athlete Forum in 2018, which would be hosted by WADA and would be the first gathering of its kind related to anti-doping.
Olivier Niggli took to the stage and said, “Compliance is the key priority for the anti-doping community in the months and years ahead.” “The message is loud and clear, if we are to further strengthen our efforts to protect clean sport, we must work together more constructively; we must involve and embrace the voice of the athletes; and, we must encourage and protect whistleblowers.” Niggli then elaborated on WADA’s additional priorities for 2017, which include: further developing the Athlete Biological Passport (ABP) Program and scientific-based knowledge; increasing research-led anti-doping education; working with all stakeholders to enhance anti-doping capacity; managing the outcomes of the McLaren Investigation that exposed institutionalized manipulation of the anti-doping control process in Russia; and, supporting the Russian Anti-Doping Agency’s (RUSADA) in their return to compliance with the World Anti-Doping Code (Code). On the topic of Russia, he then updated participants regarding Russia and emphasized that “Russia must take the lead in rebuilding a credible and autonomous anti-doping program. There has been limited progress and there is still much work to be done in order for RUSADA to regain compliance.”
Participants then heard from Russia’s Minister of Sport, Pavel Kolobkov, who provided an update on anti-doping activities in Russia; including acknowledging deficits with the program.
Professor Richard McLaren then presented lessons learned from his independent investigation and reminded delegates that his independent investigation was to confirm the existence of institutionalized manipulation of the doping control process in Russia and not to prove individual anti-doping rule violations.
Also on day one, Vice President, Linda Hofstad Helleland, along with WADA Athlete Committee Members, launched the Agency’s new Athlete Outreach campaign that will be leveraged by the Agency at international sporting events to further engage athletes on the topic of anti-doping.
To end day one, delegates were captivated by an on-stage interview with British cyclist, and former whistleblower, Toby Atkins; and, finally, a presentation by the Agency’s Director, Intelligence and Investigations, Gunter Younger, regarding the Agency’s new Whistleblowing Program and Policy; as well as, its newly launched digital platform to report doping violations, Speak Up!
The remainder of the Symposium featured engaging sessions; such as: Strengthening ADOs independence; Engaging athletes in the anti-doping process; Exploring additional sources of funding for ADOs; Should sports and countries police themselves in the field of anti-doping debate?; Improving education programs through social science research; Building a strong doping risk assessment and testing program; Optimizing Therapeutic Use Exemption management; WADA’s compliance questionnaire monitoring process; Stimulating partnerships – government and sport; Stimulating collaboration – ADOs and laboratories; and, Improving ADO effectiveness in the Results Management process.