10 January 2020

New Year Message to Stakeholders from WADA President Witold Banka

Dear supporters of clean sport,

On behalf of all of us at the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), please accept my very best wishes for the year ahead. It promises to be one that is filled with plenty of exciting sports action. We are conscious that athletes will be starting the new year with great dreams and expectations for the months ahead. They may rest assured that WADA is more determined than ever to protect athletes and to promote clean sport in all that we do.

Now entering its 21st year, we may say that WADA has truly come of age. Only days into my presidency of the Agency, it is very clear to me that WADA, as the global leader of anti-doping, has significantly matured and is stronger than ever before. The athletes of the world, their fans and every parent encouraging a child to follow their sporting dream deserve nothing less. To this, I add my personal commitment to see that WADA goes from strength to strength in the coming years. Where there is room to improve, we will do so with vision and hard work. This is the way of the successful athlete and it will be WADA’s way also.

WADA’s determination

It is certain that WADA will face challenges this year as in others. It is also certain that in the face of those challenges, our determination to stay the course remains extremely solid. You may have seen that we filed our formal notice of dispute yesterday with the Court of Arbitration for Sport in our non-compliance case against the Russian Anti-Doping Agency. As the monitoring body of anti-doping worldwide, WADA will not hesitate to do whatever is necessary to protect clean sport. This is in the spirit of the Katowice Declaration that concluded WADA’s fifth World Conference on Doping in Sport, which was held in my home country of Poland last November.

We declared that we would work to bring all perpetrators to account without limitation. Where systems and cultures allow – and even enable – the use of prohibited substances and methods, we must work to make sure that athletes are not the only ones sanctioned. The cultures and systems must change too and those responsible brought to justice. This has been WADA’s approach to the Russian doping crisis, as shown by the strong consequences endorsed by our Executive Committee in December, consequences that target the guilty parties and protect the innocent.

WADA’s purpose and progress

The path that has already been set for WADA is one of purpose and progress. I am deeply grateful to my predecessor Sir Craig Reedie for his 20-year commitment to WADA and the protection of clean sport. The Agency has arrived at this point due to well-defined priorities. Of course, I do believe the system can still do more but doing so will require more than just the professionalism and dedication already shown by WADA’s expert volunteers and highly dedicated staff. It will require greater resources.

In this regard, WADA is grateful to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for its recent commitment to provide up to USD 10 million for a range of activities, including the long-term storage of samples, the enhancement of WADA’s program of scientific research, and the strengthening of WADA’s world-leading Intelligence and Investigations Department. It is thanks to both the IOC and Governments of the world that we are able to operate as we do; and, we appreciate the approved 8% year-on-year increases to WADA’s 2018-2022 budget very much.

Having said this, I continue to believe that the funding made available to support clean sport, including at the national level, should be increased. That is why I have proposed the creation of an anti-doping solidarity fund. I believe there are many socially responsible, private organizations (sport, pharmaceutical, etc.) that would have an interest in enhancing their image by investing in the integrity of sport. From a marketing point of view, this is a clear opportunity for a brand to associate itself with the protection of clean sport. Anti-doping also helps sports broadcasters maintain the quality of the product they buy and sell. Nobody wants to watch events that are tainted. Given that broadcasters benefit from the global anti-doping system, I believe that they too could have an interest in contributing to it.

I know this will be a time-consuming, long-term project but I am ready to initiate it this year. I am prepared to dedicate my time to make a difference. The aim of the fund should be to create and support – financially or otherwise – anti-doping structures, such as National Anti-Doping Organizations, laboratories or other partners within the anti-doping community. It should fund such things as equipment, staffing, testing programs and educational campaigns.

WADA’s increased support for Signatories

It is to WADA’s credit that 2020 will already see a greater level of support for Signatories to the World Anti-Doping Code (Code) than ever before. A year from now, the revised 2021 Code and related International Standards, to which so many of you have helpfully contributed, will come into force. Together, we will raise our game to new levels of performance for the good of clean sport.

In making improvements, WADA knows it must be exemplary. This month, the Executive Committee will continue the implementation of wide-ranging governance reforms. And we will take these reforms further as part of a new Strategic Plan for 2020-24. In that time, stakeholders will notice greater independence, as well as an athlete appointed to each Standing Committee, ensuring the crucial voices of athletes are at the core of all our activities. Athletes’ interests must be put first.

In closing, I would simply say that I am acutely aware that the Agency’s performance is very important to the future of athletes and to the future of sport. I can assure you that I plan to work very hard -- alongside WADA’s new Vice President and fellow former elite athlete Yang Yang; WADA’s Director General, Olivier Niggli, and the Management Team; the Executive Committee; the Foundation Board and all key stakeholders -- to ensure that we continue to lead a global anti-doping program that supports the values of clean sport at all times. I look forward to meeting with stakeholders and I commit for WADA on the whole, and myself as its President, to communicate with you in a timely, transparent and meaningful way. It is my hope that this communication goes both ways. Your views count every bit as much as your contribution to clean sport; without which, we simply could not succeed in our mission.

Thank you and best regards,

Witold Banka

WADA President