Today, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) encouraged continued collaboration in anti-doping across all nations within the Asia region in order to strengthen the anti-doping system for athletes of the region and the world. Addressing a virtual meeting of the Ministers of Sport and other senior Government officials of the East, South and South-East Asian countries to discuss anti-doping matters, WADA President, Vice-President and Director General were united in thanking the public authorities for their commitment to anti-doping, and encouraged further support for and from the region that is preparing to host the next two Olympic and Paralympic Games, in Tokyo and Beijing, as well as a number of other major championships.
The meeting was organized by WADA as the first of its kind and 21 Governments of Asia were represented. Future similar meetings are also planned, both in Asia and other regions of the world. In his address, WADA President Witold Bańka outlined some of the work currently being undertaken by the Agency, particularly as it relates to its response to the COVID-19 pandemic and preparation for the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo, as well as longer-term projects associated with WADA’s Strategic Plan 2020-2024. He said that for the success of the anti-doping system, it was crucial that WADA continued to enjoy the support of Governments.
Speaking to the public authority officials, President Bańka said: “It is encouraging for WADA to see how Governments in Asia are stepping up to the challenge of anti-doping in sport. To see so many Governments of Asia represented here today shows us just how seriously this issue is being taken. I congratulate you for your efforts in promoting regional cooperation and partnership. This is very important and worthwhile work. It is vital that you continue your support of National and Regional Anti-Doping Organizations in Asia, to give them the resources they need and also to be strong ambassadors in your nations of our collective mission for doping-free sport.
“Asia is becoming more and more important on the global sporting stage as it continues to host successful events. With that increase in profile comes a responsibility to ensure that everything possible is being done to protect the integrity of sports. WADA stands ready to support you in that goal.
“From WADA’s perspective, our new Strategic Plan places athletes at the center and is shaping the transformational journey that WADA has embarked on. Day in, day out, WADA will continue to collaborate with athletes and all our partners worldwide to strengthen the World Anti-Doping Program. We are committed to building anti-doping capacity and community, and to securing the additional funding that is required to further enable doping-free sport. We are confident that with the support of all our clean sport partners, including the Governments of this region, we will succeed.”
President Bańka is a former 400m runner at the international level for his native Poland and he was joined virtually at the meeting by another former athlete, WADA Vice-President and double Olympic gold medal-winning short-track speed-skater, Yang Yang, from China, who said that although she retired from elite sport some years ago, she still thinks like an athlete and that was where her first priority would always be.
Yang Yang said: “Much work has been done to secure athletes’ confidence and trust in the system, which they so richly deserve. We want all stakeholders – and that includes Governments of the world – to have the opportunity to input their expertise and influence to ensure that the clean athlete prevails and to ensure that young people are protected from the scourge of doping.”
In addition, the Vice-President’s speech focused on education and she outlined the important work WADA was doing in this area, stressing that the vast majority of athletes wanted to complete clean. She said: “In addition to educating athletes, crucially, we must inform and equip their entourage, too. This includes parents, coaches, trainers and doctors, who have such an important role to play. If we can educate the entourage and make them understand the importance of clean competition, it will filter down to the athlete, even those of a very young age.”
In his presentation, WADA Director General Olivier Niggli provided detail on WADA’s Strategic Plan and also encouraged ongoing partnership and collaboration. He said: “I am confident in our team’s ability to lead anti-doping in a new era – an era where athletes can expect that their efforts be met with a level playing field. But while WADA is the global regulatory body for anti-doping in sport, we can only deliver on our mission in cooperation with all our stakeholders around the world, including the Governments of Asia. Together, we can maintain and forge strong partnerships to build regional capacity, enhance education and implement anti-doping program development across the region – partnerships that are crucial to the success of the entire anti-doping movement.”