A letter from the President of the World Anti-Doping Agency to athletes of the world

Witold Banka - Polish Athletes

Dear fellow athletes,

As we come to the end of another year, I want to update you on how, increasingly, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is putting you at the center of all that it is doing to protect clean sport.

As part of our Strategic Plan for 2020-2024, we are constantly striving to do more as we are ‘Leading Anti-Doping in a New Era’. This Plan was developed following feedback from key stakeholders within the anti-doping ecosystem, including athletes, who acknowledged how much WADA had achieved since its formation in 1999, but also identified a number of areas where WADA could improve or switch focus.

As the global anti-doping regulator, WADA is now in a completely different place than it was just six or seven years ago – thanks in large part to advances in investigations and compliance, and also because we have carried out wide-ranging governance reforms and significantly strengthened our education activities.


This last point is very important. Anti-doping education is based on the principle that athletes start in sport clean and that the vast majority want to remain that way. When we are young and dreaming of winning an Olympic or Paralympic medal, we do not think about breaking the rules to do it. Instinctively, we know we want to win the right way. It is vitally important to protect and support the dreams of athletes as they strive to succeed in an ethical way that will allow them to enjoy their achievements long after they have retired, without having to lie or make excuses for what they did or how they did it.

This is why the 2021 World Anti-Doping Code includes education in the prevention of intentional or unintentional doping, along with deterrence, detection, enforcement, and the rule of law. Education is a core component of any anti-doping program and was reinforced on 1 January 2021 through the introduction of the first International Standard for Education. This important Standard sets out the requirements that Signatories to the World Anti-Doping Code need to meet as it relates to education.

Another great development for anti-doping education came in January of this year when we launched our new and improved Anti-Doping Education and Learning platform, known as ADEL. Via the new ADEL platform, WADA provides education and learning opportunities for the anti-doping community worldwide, in particular athletes. I urge you all to make the most of this useful tool.

Athletes, who are already very active in every one of our Standing Committees, are also the beneficiaries of WADA’s ongoing governance reforms. Last month, our Foundation Board (Board) unanimously approved another raft of far-reaching improvements to our governance model. The improvements include:

  • The creation of a reformed and renamed WADA Athletes’ Council, as developed with the current members of the WADA Athlete Committee and their sub-group on athlete representation, to replace the Athlete Committee. The members of this new Athletes’ Council will all be chosen by athletes, as opposed to the current Athlete Committee appointed by WADA and the Chair of the Committee. It will be composed of 20 members:
    • five athletes appointed by the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC’s) and International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC’s) Athlete Commissions,
    • eight athletes elected by the Athlete Commissions of International Federations, and
    • seven other athletes, to be selected by an appointments panel made up of a majority of athletes, to fill skills and diversity gaps;
  • Changes to the composition of the Board to include four additional seats:
    • two for representatives of athletes, as chosen by and from the WADA Athletes’ Council, including an athlete coming from Paralympic sport, and
    • two for representatives of National Anti-Doping Organizations (NADOs), as chosen by the WADA NADO Expert Advisory Group, whose 10 members will be elected by the NADOs of each of the five continents (two members per continent);
  • Changes to the composition of the Executive Committee (ExCo) that include two additional seats:
    • one for the WADA Athletes’ Council Chair as elected by the Athletes’ Council, and
    • an additional independent member;
  • The ExCo will therefore have 16 members composed as follows:
    • the Chair of the WADA Athletes’ Council,
    • five representatives of the Sport Movement, including an athlete representative,
    • five representatives of the Governments of the world (one per continent), and
    • five independent members made up of the independent WADA President and Vice-President, and three other independent members.

In addition, the ExCo endorsed a one-year pilot project for an Athletes’ Anti-Doping Ombuds Program. This Ombuds will help athletes through the anti-doping process, providing independent advice, support and resolution of disputes. It is another step forward for the rights of athletes and part of my commitment for WADA to be more athlete-centered. 

Also at the Board meeting in November, the formation of an independent Ethics Board was approved, along with a Code of Ethics, something I am sure you will agree is a welcome development.

So as you can see, a lot is being done to make WADA more independent and representative of all its stakeholders. For me, there is no one more important than you, the athletes. Everything that we do is for you, to ensure a level playing field on which you can compete fairly and with confidence in the anti-doping system. I convey this message to all athletes of the world, not just to certain small, self-appointed groups that happen to shout the loudest. For me, all athletes are equally important and their dreams of success on the world stage are equally valid, no matter the sport they play or the language they speak.

There are some who want to politicize anti-doping and turn it into a power struggle between certain factions or nations. But for me, it is important not to discriminate and we must not cede control to vested interests who want to place their organizations above others. When it comes to supporting athletes, it is crucial that we are equitable. A gap anywhere in the system is a problem for all of us and we must ensure that underfunded or lower profile regions of the world are not allowed to fall behind when it comes to protecting clean sport. I will not allow WADA to become part of anyone’s political game.

Meanwhile, the pandemic continues to affect daily life around the world and the anti-doping system is no exception. The latest developments with Omicron and other COVID variants are worrying. But we are delivering comprehensive guidance for Anti-Doping Organizations and athletes. And we will continue to do so as we all prepare for Beijing. The anti-doping system is all about collaboration. While the situation continues to evolve, WADA stands ready to assist. Our collective mission is to work together for the good of sport, upholding the rights of you, the athletes, who we serve.

In the face of the pandemic, I am proud to say that a lot has been achieved by the global anti-doping community. Testing and other activities have been back to normal levels since the start of 2021. This gave us the preparation time we needed for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

  • Athlete-committee

We now look forward to Beijing early in 2022. We will continue to work closely with the International Testing Agency (ITA) and the Pre-Games Anti-Doping Taskforce to ensure all athletes have been adequately tested. As usual, we will send a team of Independent Observers to Beijing. This team will provide real-time feedback to the ITA and IOC during the Olympic Games, as well as the IPC during the Paralympic Games, on every aspect of the anti-doping process. It will then submit its full report later in the year. Teamwork, trust and mutual respect is how we ensure the best possible program is delivered for the athletes.

That is not to say we are happy to go this far and no more. We must continue moving forward – always aiming to be ahead of those who would cheat the system. It is a constant and never-ending challenge that we face. We cannot rely on one or two tools – we must be ready to protect sport from all angles, with nimbleness and constant innovation. 

In the area of intelligence and investigations, our independent department has conducted some far-reaching and successful probes into a range of doping conspiracies. It has done so by gathering information through our confidential source program, called ‘Speak Up!’, and by working with a range of stakeholders around the world to ensure cases are fully investigated and, where appropriate, prosecuted. If you have information related to doping, I strongly urge you to bring it forward to ‘Speak Up!’. Our experienced confidential information managers are ready to speak with you and will treat your information with sensitivity and in complete confidence.

In the compliance area, the monitoring of all Signatories to ensure that each delivers on its responsibilities under the Code is a vital part of WADA’s mission. Our Compliance Monitoring Program, which was initiated in 2016, is delivering real improvements on the ground. We are holding Code Signatories to the same high standards of accountability as athletes. This is only fair.

Along with the Athlete Biological Passportscientific advancements – such as those in the area of dry blood-spot analysis and artificial intelligence – and through our calls for quality, intelligent testing programs to be conducted by all Anti-Doping Organizations worldwide, we are striving to continuously enhance the sophistication of the global anti-doping community’s approach to preventing, deterring and detecting cheats.

While WADA and the global anti-doping community have made great strides in recent years for athletes and clean sport, we want to hear from you to help us further enhance our impact. That is why the addition of more athlete representation on our governing bodies is so exciting. The level of collaboration between the Sport Movement, Governments, athletes, NADOs and other stakeholders, as well as the perspective provided by independent voices, has never been higher and is truly inspiring. We all share in WADA’s vision of a world where athletes can participate in a doping-free sporting environment. With your continued support and active participation, this aspiration becomes more achievable every day.

At this time, I would like to wish you a peaceful holiday season and a happy, prosperous new year, wherever in the world you are.

Yours in sport,

Witold Bańka