On behalf of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), we wish you and yours a happy, healthy and successful New Year. We hope that you enjoyed a restful holiday season and that you join us in greeting 2021 with renewed energy.
While closing the book on 2020, we wish first of all to recognize the efforts of the global anti-doping community that pulled together to ensure the integrity of the global anti-doping system in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Clearly, when we embarked on 2020, we had no idea of the journey that lay ahead. The pandemic challenged the anti-doping community, like society in general, to quickly put measures in place to minimize its impact; and, we did so together.
For WADA’s part, this translated mainly into producing guidance materials for athletes and Anti-Doping Organizations to ensure that testing would continue in a structured and safe way, but also that Anti-Doping Organizations would continue to use all available tools to maintain the integrity of the system when testing may be temporarily diminished. These tools include in particular education for athletes and others; the Athlete Biological Passport, which assesses the evolution of athletes’ biological profiles; intelligence received through whistleblowers, which can lead to target-testing or to launching investigations; and, sample storage for future re-analysis as science advances and detection techniques are refined.
We will continue to work with the global anti-doping community this year to ensure that any anti-doping gaps can be identified and addressed. And we will continue to use the challenges raised by the COVID-19 pandemic to further stimulate innovation to make anti-doping stronger. This is why WADA is collaborating with stakeholders to explore new sample collection and analytical techniques such as dried blood spot analysis and artificial intelligence. This collaboration continues to give us confidence that, with vaccines now being deployed worldwide, anti-doping will emerge from this pandemic more resilient.
2021 World Anti-Doping Code and International Standards
Another significant effort made by the anti-doping community over the last year has been the revision by World Anti-Doping Code (Code) Signatories of their anti-doping rules and preparations for implementation of the 2021 Code, International Standards and Athletes’ Anti-Doping Rights Act. These key documents were approved in November 2019 during the World Conference on Doping in Sport following a two-year stakeholder consultation process and entered into force on 1 January 2021.
Over the past year, WADA has supported Signatories in aligning their rules with the revised Code and has provided robust educational and informational support via our Code Implementation Support Program so that they could hit the ground running in January.
We are grateful to all our stakeholders that have contributed to this strengthened World Anti-Doping Program. We are confident that, by reinforcing our efforts as a united anti-doping community, this new Program will help us drive further progress for athletes and sport worldwide.
Once again, we closed out the year with a major outcome related to the compliance of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) – this time, with the 17 December decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to declare RUSADA non-compliant with the Code for a period of two years and impose a number of significant consequences. While this decision confirms in large part the recommendation made in November 2019 by WADA’s independent Compliance Review Committee, which was unanimously accepted by the Agency’s Executive Committee (ExCo) on 9 December 2019, WADA remains disappointed that the recommendation was not upheld in its entirety. We now expect the full reasoned decision to be published by CAS shortly as per the requirements of the International Standard for Code Compliance by Signatories (ISCCS).
In looking at this case, it is important to keep in mind that the CAS decision related specifically to the manipulation of Moscow laboratory data by the Russian authorities while the data were being forensically copied by WADA’s Intelligence & Investigations Department in January 2019 as part of Operation LIMS. This manipulation was in clear contravention of critical criteria set by the ExCo when RUSADA was reinstated as compliant, under strict conditions, in September 2018. The CAS decision did not relate to the broader Russian Doping Crisis dating back to 2014. This is a key point given that the ISCCS – along with a number of amendments to the Code focusing on Signatories’ compliance – came into force on 1 April 2018 and cannot be applied retroactively. Prior to 1 April 2018, WADA did not have the proper legal basis to pursue this matter.
While the Russian Doping Crisis has been very destabilizing for athletes, their entourage, WADA and the anti-doping system, we firmly believe that WADA has adapted and shaped its strategy in such a way that the Agency and the global anti-doping system have grown stronger, and continue to transform from this major disruption. This is evidenced by developments such as the Agency having strengthened its intelligence and investigations (I&I) capability, including with the launch of a very successful Speak Up! whistleblower program; and, having expanded its compliance monitoring program, including through introduction of the ISCCS,
WADA Governance Reforms
In parallel with these developments, we continue to progress with our wide-ranging governance reforms, which were approved by WADA’s Foundation Board (Board) in November 2018 and are being introduced according to the agreed schedule. Of the 70 reform recommendations made by a WADA Governance Reforms Working Group in November 2018, all have now been actioned to some degree – the vast majority having been fully implemented. In particular, WADA now has an independent President and Vice-President; there is at least one athlete and one representative of National Anti-Doping Organizations (NADOs) on each Standing Committee (except for the independent Compliance Review Committee as it relates to NADOs); and, there is a limit of three terms of three years each for members of the ExCo, Board and Standing Committees. There is now also a Nominations Committee to ensure that the right people in terms of skills and independence serve in senior governance roles within WADA.
These reforms will continue in 2021. A few weeks ago, in December, the Board appointed two additional independent members to the ExCo. With the addition of these two members, the ExCo will be composed of four independent members (including the President and the Vice-President), five representatives of Governments and five of the Sport Movement, with active or former athletes represented in each of these categories. In addition, in November 2020, the ExCo created a new Working Group on the Review of WADA Governance Reforms. An essential part of the work of this Group will be to monitor the effect of the ongoing governance reforms and propose additional reforms going forward. This will involve in particular a wide-ranging consultation with stakeholders in the coming months.
But we will not stop here. While more than one third of our current ExCo and Board members are active and former international-level athletes, work is underway to further enhance athlete representation within WADA. Discussions are also ongoing regarding the introduction of a WADA Code of Ethics and formation of an Independent Ethics Board or similar structure.
We are determined to ensure that WADA’s governance model continues to evolve with best practice over time.
Working Together for Clean Sport
Moving forward, much of our work will be guided by our 2020-2024 Strategic Plan. This Plan, which reflects the feedback of key stakeholders within the anti-doping ecosystem, acknowledges that WADA is completely different to what it was a few years ago. It also reflects a consensus that WADA must go further to build bridges and unite efforts to protect athletes and the integrity of sports globally.
Guided by the Strategic Plan, which has been defined with athletes at the center, WADA is and will be looking for every opportunity to meaningfully engage with athletes to enhance the global anti-doping system. We support our Athlete Committee --which is chaired by three-time Olympian in skeleton, Ben Sandford of New Zealand -- in carrying out its mandate to provide athlete perspectives to WADA on all relevant anti-doping matters. The Athlete Committee will continue its work in 2021 to come up with reform proposals so that they can become a truly representative body. We both and senior WADA staff will continue to meet with individual athletes and groups that represent different sports, regions of the world and perspectives. The numerous meetings held in 2020 with athletes and athlete groups; as well as, with athletes that sit on the WADA Board, ExCo, Athlete Committee and expert committees; were very constructive, and the general feedback from these discussions was very supportive of WADA’s work and new Strategic Plan.
In the meantime, our 140+ talented and committed team members worldwide will continue to engage and collaborate with stakeholders and to work tirelessly to protect the integrity of sport. We will continue to further develop key anti-doping areas – from education, science, and innovations in our Anti-Doping Administration & Management System (ADAMS), to I&I and compliance monitoring. We will be sure to mobilize the very best contributions from the anti-doping community and to inspire ourselves from successes in other fields and areas of business.
We are committed to engaging all stakeholders in further developing anti-doping; to enhancing anti-doping capacity and community worldwide; and to securing the additional funding that is required to further enable doping-free sport. We believe that with the support of the anti-doping community, we will achieve more progress together in 2021 and beyond.
Once again, we thank you for your commitment to clean sport and wish you all a healthy and happy New Year.
Witold Bańka Olivier Niggli
President Director General