23 March 2018

Compliance, funding and capturing the athlete’s voice among main themes at WADA Annual Symposium

Compliance, funding and capturing the athlete’s voice were among the main themes at the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA’s) 14th Annual Symposium held this week in Lausanne, Switzerland

The WADA Symposium, which is generally recognized as the leading fixture on the anti-doping calendar, gathered a record 900 delegates from the global anti-doping community for three days of presentations, interviews, panel discussions, practical workshops and networking sessions. Athlete representatives, International Federations, government representatives, National and Regional Anti-Doping Organizations, Major Event Organizers, WADA-accredited laboratories and Athlete Passport Management units, as well as more than 50 international media and other stakeholders, gathered under the theme “Shaping the Future of Clean Sport”.

The keynote address by WADA President Sir Craig Reedie, titled ‘From a Turbulent Time to a Fit Future’, set the tone for the week as he reflected on the Russian doping scandal and on the ongoing efforts being made by WADA to assist the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) in their return to compliance with the World Anti-Doping Code. Reedie went on to state that Russian authorities must take real action in order to move forward. He acknowledged that the Russian scandal had prompted the establishment of new priorities that had already equipped the Agency to better navigate situations of non-compliance with the Code.

Most notably, Reedie spoke of WADA’s International Standard for Code Compliance by Signatories (ISCCS) that enters into force on 1 April, enhanced intelligence and investigations activity and the new Speak Up! whistleblower program. He then flagged that WADA’s increased activities in these areas and others had driven the Agency to propose to the Foundation Board in November 2017, 2018-21 budgetary increases of 8%, 15%, 15% and 5%, respectively. 

Reedie said: “The whole anti-doping movement needs to step up its activities to make a real impact and WADA’s funding model will dictate our ability to do that. A delay in this funding increase would mean not bringing WADA to the level it should be at to face the current and future challenges and opportunities. Properly funded, our proposed budget would allow us to pursue fully all the activities we have been asked to carry out and more. Together, we will change the game for clean sport and strengthen athlete and public trust and confidence.”

WADA Director General, Olivier Niggli, took delegates through WADA’s strategic priorities, which in addition to those outlined by Reedie, included: harmonizing Code rules via the 2021 Code Review and simultaneous review of the International Standards; increasing scientific and social science research; enhancing education, most notably through the development of an International Standard for Education and Information; capacity building of Anti-Doping Organizations; and the ongoing overhaul of WADA’s Anti-Doping Administration and Management System (ADAMS).

Niggli said: “The entire anti-doping community must be adequately resourced in order to carry out its important mission. I am convinced that a strong and united anti-doping community, with everybody effectively playing their role, will help to enhance confidence in the system. Together, we can succeed in ensuring that the clean athlete prevails.”

WADA Vice-President Linda Helleland echoed Reedie’s view as regards funding and reiterated the need for a strong, independent WADA while pledging her commitment to ensuring that athletes remain at the core of the anti-doping community’s focus.

Athletes themselves were well represented during the Symposium. In particular, the attendance of WADA Athlete Committee members as well as International Federation athlete commission chairs reinforced the importance of athletes having an active role in clean sport initiatives. WADA’s Athlete Committee members Beckie Scott (Chair) and Ben Sandford gave an update on progress of the Anti-Doping Charter of Athlete Rights, which they hope will be included within the 2021 Code.

Scott also told delegates that WADA would be holding its first-ever Global Athlete Forum from 3-5 June in Calgary, Canada, which will be an opportunity for athletes to contribute significantly to shaping the future of clean sport.

One of the highlights on day one of the Symposium was a panel discussion, which focused on rebuilding anti-doping in Russia, featuring representatives from RUSADA and one of its independent experts, the International Olympic Committee, UK Anti-Doping and WADA. The emphasis was on progress made to date by RUSADA and the work remaining towards the end goal of RUSADA rejoining the international anti-doping community in a credible and sustainable way that would restore confidence in the integrity of Russian sport. In November 2017, WADA’s Foundation Board retained RUSADA’s non-compliant status until such time as Russia fulfills the two outstanding criteria of RUSADA’s Roadmap to Compliance.

Also on day one, participants heard from the Chair of WADA’s independent Compliance Review Committee, Jonathan Taylor, on the major achievements of WADA’s Code Compliance Monitoring Program and, in particular, the ISCCS, which will formalize the ways in which the Agency supports Code Signatories in achieving, maintaining and regaining Code compliance. The ISCCS also specifies a range of graded, predictable and proportionate sanctions for cases of non-compliance and a process for determining non-compliance and consequences.

Then, Valérie Fourneyron gave an update on the new International Testing Agency (ITA), of which she is chair.

Day two kicked off with a panel discussion on the need for increased investment in anti-doping necessary to protect clean sport. This was followed by a session regarding ‘Speak Up!’, which has gained significant trust of stakeholders in its first 12 months in operation with 209 reports having been submitted in 2017.

WADA then gave an update on safeguarding the doping control process with sustainable security bottle supply in the wake of bottle manufacturer Berlinger Special AG’s decision earlier this month to withdraw from the doping control business after experiencing integrity issues with some of its bottles.

The remainder of the Symposium featured engaging sessions, such as increased collaboration through WADA’s online education platform (ADeL) and optimizing ADAMS for high performance, usability and assured data protection. In addition, there were practical workshops covering almost every facet of anti-doping.