In a move that will help safeguard the activities of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and legally protect WADA in its mission to lead a collaborative worldwide movement for doping-free sport, on 15 June, the National Assembly of Quebec unanimously approved a Private Bill respecting the immunities granted to the Agency.
Private Bill 238, which was passed by the legislative body of the Canadian province where WADA has its global headquarters, provides civil jurisdiction immunity for decisions taken by the organization. This will help defend WADA when it is targeted by third parties who want to disrupt or intimidate it from carrying out its mission.
In recent years, WADA has carried out, and continues to carry out, complex and often high-profile investigations while also running a very active whistleblower program (Speak Up!). With this, the Agency has been required to deal with a number of expensive and time-consuming legal challenges. Attempts to derail investigations through civil cases affect WADA’s capacity to lead the fight against doping in sport and to protect the rights of clean athletes.
WADA Director General Olivier Niggli, who had the opportunity to address the National Assembly, said: “The passing of this Bill is good news for clean sport. As the global regulatory body, we are not in the business of making friends with those who deliberately break the rules under the World Anti-Doping Code. However, increasingly, WADA is facing costly civil lawsuits brought by individuals and organizations whose questionable activities we have brought to light. With the added protection that the Bill provides, we will be able to keep these threats from turning into costly and potentially damaging distractions from our core activities.
“While it is important to protect WADA’s capacity to fulfill its role as the global anti-doping regulator, it must be noted that it is not the objective of the Bill to exempt WADA or its employees from being investigated or facing criminal prosecution. Nor does this Bill compromise the right to appeal WADA decisions to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in the appropriate way.”
“WADA is very grateful to the National Assembly members – across all political parties – who supported this initiative. We would particularly like to highlight the efforts of Mr. David Birnbaum, deputy from D’Arcy McGee; and, Ms. Christine St-Pierre, Minister of International Relations and La Francophonie, for their support to the Agency and the fight against doping in sport.”
Under the terms of the Bill, WADA, including its directors, officers and employees, will have immunity from civil jurisdiction with regard to any decision (and resulting activity) made in connection with its mission to fight doping in sport internationally.
In addition, the property and information needed to achieve this mission is exempt from seizure. WADA gathers sensitive information and items related to audits, national and international investigations and whistleblowers as well as scientific and pharmaceutical research and this information can be crucial in launching and successfully prosecuting cases against individuals and organizations.