6 November 2019

WADA’s World Conference on Doping in Sport focuses on strengthened rules’ benefits to athletes

Today, the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA’s) World Conference on Doping in Sport – being held from 5-7 November in Katowice, Poland – primarily focused on the International Standards of the global anti-doping program, which will be put before WADA’s Executive Committee tomorrow for approval. A Conference session was devoted to each Standard with experts on hand to explain some of the technicalities of each and the positive impact that they will have on clean sport.

The comprehensive suite of Standards – which includes two new ones related to results management and education – covers the topics of testing and investigations, Therapeutic Use Exemptions, the Prohibited List, laboratories, data protection, and Signatory compliance with the World Anti-Doping Code (Code). Once approved, all the Standards will enter into force on 1 January 2021, with the exception of the List that is updated annually.

In December 2017, WADA initiated a very transparent revision process which consisted of three distinct consultation phases for the Code and two for the related International Standards. During this time, stakeholders had multiple opportunities to contribute and make recommendations on how to strengthen the global anti-doping rules.

The new International Standard for Results Management seeks to make cases of suspected doping more harmonized, fair, efficient and timely so that athletes are treated the same regardless of their sport or country, while the International Standard for Education will further enable Signatories to consider those in their sporting landscape who would benefit from education, plan how to reach them, provide education opportunities for them to access and then gather feedback for improvements.

WADA President Sir Craig Reedie said: “In conjunction with the Code, the International Standards underpin the entire global anti-doping program and have proven over time to be highly effective. In order for them to remain robust, they need to evolve and adapt to the changing landscape. Through the comprehensive consultation process that has led up to this point, we received a huge number of comments and contributions from stakeholders, the result of which is stronger regulations that will protect athletes and clean sport further.”

During the afternoon, WADA Athlete Committee Chair Beckie Scott and member Ben Sandford presented the latest draft of the Athletes’ Anti-Doping Rights Act – previously known as the Anti-Doping Charter of Athlete Rights. The purpose of this document is to ensure that athlete rights within anti-doping are clearly set out, accessible, and universally applicable. Beckie Scott and Ben Sandford took Conference participants through the Act’s two-year evolution, detailed its contents and addressed questions and comments raised by the Conference participants. The Act will be considered along with the International Standards by WADA’s Executive Committee tomorrow.

Another athlete-focused highlight of the day was a session that featured the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC’s) ‘Take the Podium’ program, which is a medal reallocation program launched in 2018 upon the recommendation of the IOC’s Athlete Commission. Many athletes have had medals taken away from them in the years following an Olympic Games or other major events after re-analysis of stored doping control samples by the IOC and other anti-doping organizations revealed the presence of prohibited substances or methods thanks to new or improved detection methods. The IOC has implemented a program that looks to give those athletes who were cheated out of medals at Olympic Games, their moment of glory and recognition.

Moderated by Danka Bartekova, Vice President of the IOC Athlete Commission and a member of WADA’s Athlete Committee and Executive Committee, the session focused on British javelin thrower Goldie Sayers and Polish hammer thrower Anita Wlodarczyk – both who joined Danka Bartekova on the stage to share their experience with the representatives of the anti-doping community gathered in Katowice.

Sir Craig Reedie said: “Individual cases like Goldie’s and Anita’s inspire us. This Conference is mostly discussing the rules – the Code and the Standards. Those debates can seem a little abstract or even dull at times but it is wonderful when those rules that have extended the statute of limitations to ten years and enabled re-analysis programs, make a meaningful positive difference in the lives of athletes. That is why we are here – to serve them. It sends a clear message that we will not stop seeking justice for those who have been cheated and that we will always stand beside the athletes who choose to compete clean.”

At the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, Goldie Sayers was denied a bronze medal by an athlete who was subsequently shown to have doped. Eleven years later, she received her rightful prize from Sir Craig Reedie, in front of her home crowd at an international athletics event in London.

Sayers said: “Sport has definitely shaped me as a person. It has taught me that you can achieve a lot more than you can imagine. When I was being presented with the medal in London, I stood at the back of the podium and said to myself ‘just take it all in, take it all in’, and then I got really, really emotional. Receiving my medal the way I did was, of course, not how I dreamed it would be but it is important that athletes receive justice, no matter how long that takes.

“It’s a great privilege to give an athlete’s perspective on the medal re-allocation process and what it means to have justice finally served. The retesting program is an important aspect of anti-doping and I want to thank all those dedicated people who work hard for clean sport, people who made it possible for this to happen.”

Speaking directly to the audience, she added: “Sometimes in anti-doping you feel it’s a bit of an uphill battle, that nobody is grateful. But cases like mine show that it is worth it and I know that athletes really do value the anti-doping movement. You are all incredibly important and we need you. Please keep on fighting the fight.”

In London 2012, Anita Wlodarczyk came second behind an athlete who was later disqualified as part of the IOC re-analysis program. Two weeks ago, at a special ceremony at the Grand Theatre in Warsaw, she received her gold medal from IOC President Thomas Bach.

Wlodarczyk said: “At the time, in 2012, when I came second at the London Olympics, I was very happy because my biggest dream was to win an Olympic medal. I remember every detail of the ceremony and I was very proud to win a medal for Poland. But five years later, I received the news that the athlete who came first was caught for doping through re-analysis. The IOC informed me of the official decision and asked me where and when I would like to receive the gold medal.

“It was such a thrill and I was very happy to receive the medal here in Poland during a special gala celebration of the centenary of the Polish Olympic Committee. It meant a lot to me. I am very happy to have two gold Olympic medals now. Ultimately, it is the clean athletes who are cheated when other athletes take performance-enhancing drugs. I heard here at the World Conference about new methods of doping control and I am very happy that WADA is helping to protect athletes and always looking to improve the system.”

The World Conference is taking stock of the evolution of Clean Sport with stakeholders engaging in high-level discussion and debate about the global anti-doping program. It has brought together more than 1,500 representatives from the sport movement, public authorities and anti-doping organizations, along with athletes, other anti-doping experts and members of the media.