10 May 2009

WADA Executive Committee Approves Enhanced International Data Protection Standard

The Executive Committee of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) unanimously approved on Saturday an enhanced version of the International Standard for the Protection of Privacy and Personal Information (Data Protection Standard).

This decision was taken as part of WADA’s Executive Committee and Foundation Board meetings held respectively on Saturday and Sunday in Montreal, Canada.

The Data Protection Standard, which was developed by WADA at the request of, and in consultation with, its stakeholders, aims at ensuring that all relevant parties involved in the fight against doping in sport adhere to a set of privacy protections when collecting and using athlete personal information, such as information relating to whereabouts, doping controls and therapeutic use exemptions. It is one of the five mandatory International Standards for signatories of the World Anti-Doping Code (namely the Prohibited List, the International Standards for Laboratories, Therapeutic Use Exemptions, Data Protection, and Testing; the latter including athlete whereabouts requirements). It was originally approved in September 2008 by WADA’s Executive Committee, the Agency’s supreme policy-making body (with the exception of the European government representative). This approval was subsequently confirmed in November 2008 by WADA’s Executive Committee and Foundation Board, the Agency’s supreme decision-making body (with the exception of European government representatives). The original Standard took effect on January 1, 2009.

(Click here to read the original and the amended versions of the Standard.)

“WADA is a world-representative body and its decisions are made by representatives of the sport movement and of governments of all regions of the world,” said WADA’s President, the Hon. John Fahey. “Last year, the majority of Members considered that it was in the strong interest of athletes worldwide to have such a protection in place, in particular in countries of the world where there exists no or very little data protection legislation. We also made it very clear that nothing in the Data Protection Standard required any European country to lower its level of privacy protection, as some questioned. On the contrary, the Standard provides that anti-doping organizations based in Europe must respect their national data protection laws and that those laws prevail over the Standard as long as they are as rigorous as the Standard.”

In order to address concerns raised by a number of European governmental authorities in relation to the Data Protection Standard, WADA’s Management has met on numerous occasions in 2009 with the European Commission, the Council of Europe, European governments and other European governmental authorities, to discuss possible amendments. As a result, the amendments approved on Saturday by WADA’s Executive Committee primarily clarify the scope of the Standard application, as well as the obligation imposed on each anti-doping organization when dealing with data in the fight against doping. These amendments will take effect on June 1, 2009.

“I am pleased that European governments and the European Commission feel that their concerns have been addressed, and I am grateful to the Government of Spain for the leading role it took in that process,” added WADA’s President. “WADA has always been committed to constructive dialogue. We have spent considerable time to address this issue, and I am glad we can now move forward together in a spirit of cooperation and unity and refocus on our core anti-doping activities.”

Code Compliance
On Sunday, WADA’s Foundation Board discussed the enforcement of, and compliance with, the World Anti-Doping Code (Code)—the fundamental set of rules harmonizing the global fight against doping in sport.

In particular, WADA’s Management reported that the five remaining International Federations (IFs) of Olympic Sports (gymnastics, handball, modern pentathlon, volleyball and wrestling) that had not implemented an out-of-competition testing program, as required by the Code, at the time of the previous compliance report in November 2008, had now done so.

The Foundation Board also recognized that, given the limited time elapsed since amendments to the Code and several International Standards took effect on January 1, 2009, WADA should continue to provide assistance to those signatories that might still require guidance in enforcing their anti-doping rules in a Code-compliant way. Meanwhile, WADA’s Management will continue to provide reports on Code compliance to each of the Agency’s Executive Committee and Foundation Board meetings. The Foundation Board will discuss significant cases of non-compliance on a case-by-case basis, in person or by electronic means, and has the power to officially report at any time a signatory as non-Code compliant to the relevant stakeholders that have jurisdiction to take sanctions, including the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

“There has been a marked improvement in the enforcement of Code-compliant rules in the past few months,” said Mr Fahey. “This is encouraging. In the coming months, WADA will continue to conduct its mission of monitoring Code compliance and assisting signatories that may need it. As the year goes on, we will give particular attention to more specific areas such as the practical implementation of athlete whereabouts requirements by International Federations and National Anti-Doping Organizations. This is a living process.”

In order to further support Code compliance by IFs, the Executive Committee approved WADA’s contribution towards costs of the anti-doping services recently announced by the General Association of International Sports Federations (now called Sportaccord). Through this initiative, launched with the full support and collaboration of WADA and the IOC, Sportaccord will provide centralized anti-doping advice, support and services to IFs that may need them. These services will operate from Lausanne, Switzerland.

"As the monitor of the global fight against doping in sport and the guardian of the Code, WADA is very pleased to contribute to the establishment of this anti-doping support for IFs," said WADA's Director General David Howman. "Over the past four years, WADA has successfully experienced a similar collective resource approach with the establishment of Regional Anti-Doping Organizations in regions of the world with limited resources. This model has allowed the implementation of anti-doping programs in numerous regions with significant economies of scale. We are looking forward to continuing to work with Sportaccord on this matter."

Athlete Passport
The weekend’s meetings also focused on advances made by WADA in the development of the Athlete Passport concept. The fundamental principle of the Athlete Passport is based on the monitoring of an athlete’s biological parameters to detect abnormal variations that can reveal the effects of doping.

As the international independent organization responsible for coordinating and monitoring the fight against doping in sport, WADA’s role and mandate in this area is to provide harmonized practices for anti-doping organizations. These practices include, for example, protocols for collection, transportation, storage and analysis of samples, and for results management.

In cooperation with key experts and stakeholders, WADA has continued to carefully examine the scientific and legal practicalities of this approach in order to equip anti-doping organizations with a scientifically sound and legally robust means to strengthen target testing and to pursue anti-doping rule violations related to Article 2.2 of the Code (Use or Attempted Use by an Athlete of a Prohibited Substance or a Prohibited Method).

WADA is currently finalizing an “Athlete Biological Passport Operating Guideline.” This set of documents will provide an overview of the scientific principles behind the Athlete Passport and will provide advice on the implementation of such a program, as well as the requirements aimed at ensuring legal and scientific consistency. A working group of experts and key parties convened by WADA will shortly meet to review these documents and provide their input prior to finalization and release to all WADA stakeholders. Upon release of the set of documents, WADA will closely monitor the application of Passport programs in order to foster harmonization and to adapt and revise the protocols to reflect both best practice and to address any challenges that may present themselves.

“I am heartened by these developments,” said WADA’s President. “Potentially, the Athlete Passport could become one of the most significant new strategies in the global fight against doping in sport in the coming months and years.”

Anti-Doping Laboratory Accreditation
The Executive Committee accepted three additional anti-doping laboratories as candidates for WADA’s accreditation. The three laboratories—respectively located in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Doha, Qatar; and Mexico City—should enter WADA’s probationary accreditation process later this year or next year. Their acceptance as candidates was based on a number of criteria including geographical distribution, need for the anti-doping analytical network, expertise, and support by local authorities. WADA’s accreditation probationary process, supervised by the international experts of WADA’s Laboratory Committee, usually lasts 12 to 24 months. During that probationary process, the laboratory must demonstrate that it meets the highest quality standards through rigorous proficiency testing until the Laboratory Committee proposes its formal accreditation to the Executive Committee.

At present, the global community of WADA-accredited laboratories comprises 34 laboratories. Two additional laboratories (based in Almaty, Kazakhstan and Bucharest, Romania) are currently in the final stage of the WADA laboratory accreditation process.

WADA Funding
On the occasion of these first meetings of the Executive Committee and Foundation Board this year, WADA’s Management informed Members that the Agency had collected for the first time 100% of its budget (US$25.3 million) last year. To date, WADA has received 71% of its 2009 budget (US$ 25.5 million).

WADA’s funding is provided equally by governments of the world and the sport movement. The IOC, on behalf of the Olympic movement, matches dollar for dollar contributions made by governments.

“The commitment to the fight against doping in sport can be measured by the extent to which governments of the world contribute annually to our budget, side-by-side with the Olympic movement,” noted David Howman. “We are very pleased with the 100% rate achieved last year. This true financial commitment makes WADA one of the very few international institutions of the world to receive such a high degree of governmental contribution.”

WADA 10-Year Anniversary
WADA was established on November 10, 1999, in Lausanne, Switzerland. In order to celebrate a decade of Play True, WADA will hold its annual end-of-the-year Executive Committee and Foundation Board meetings in Europe, where it was founded. The Government of Sweden has kindly offered to contribute to host the meetings in Stockholm on December 1-2, 2009. Details of the meetings will be discussed further in the coming weeks.