WADA Advances Cooperation with Interpol, Athlete Passport Development

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) made significant advances in strengthening the global fight against doping in sport during the Agency’s Executive Committee and Foundation Board meetings held this weekend in Montreal, Canada.

Interpol and Investigation Strategy
WADA announced that it had approved a Memorandum of Understanding formalizing its cooperation with Interpol, the world’s largest police organization. This Memorandum of Understanding, approved by Interpol at its October 2008 General Assembly, provides a framework for cooperation between the two organizations in tackling doping, in particular in the areas of evidence gathering and information sharing.

At the Foundation Board meeting today, representatives of the French government officialised their government’s offer to second an officer to be based at Interpol Headquarters in Lyon, France, to serve as the liaison between WADA and its stakeholders, and the various Interpol bureaus around the world. WADA hopes that as soon as this officer starts work in this function, concrete advances in the fight against doping in this particular area will rapidly be achieved.

“WADA is very grateful to the French Government for its contribution by way of seconding one of its officers to Interpol for this purpose,” said WADA’s President, The Hon. John Fahey. “As demonstrated by recent high profile doping cases and investigations, government action and the sharing of information between law enforcement agencies and anti-doping organizations can be crucial in exposing anti-doping rule violations that would not have been detected through testing. Law enforcement and government agencies possess investigative powers to attack source and supply of illegal substances which sport does not have. We need to ensure that cooperation between these two groups continues to strengthen in order to advance the fight against doping.”

In addition to its daily activities in this area with its two groups of stakeholders (governments and sport), WADA is currently finalizing protocols to facilitate evidence gathering and information sharing between them. WADA is also working with UNESCO and individual governments to persuade governments to have laws in place that allow combating manufacturing, supply and possession of doping substances on their territories.

The World Anti-Doping Code (Code)—the document harmonizing anti-doping rules in all sports and countries—provides for the sanctioning of “non-analytical” anti-doping rule violations. This means that a sanction can be imposed in cases where there is no positive doping control test but where there is other evidence that an anti-doping rule violation occurred.

Athlete Passport
The weekend’s meetings also focused on advances made by WADA in the development of the Athlete Passport concept. The fundamental principle of the Athlete Passport is based on the monitoring of an athlete’s biological parameters to detect abnormal variations that indirectly reveal the effects of doping, as opposed to the traditional direct detection of doping.

As the international independent organization responsible for coordinating and monitoring the fight against doping in sport, WADA’s role and mandate in this area is to provide harmonized practices that anti-doping organizations conducting longitudinal analyses for anti-doping purposes will have to follow in order to comply with the Code and the related International Standards. In order to address disparate approaches to biological monitoring currently employed by various anti-doping organizations, WADA is cooperating with international experts and key stakeholders to finalize the development of these harmonized practices, which include, for example, protocols for collection, transportation, storage and analysis of samples, and for results management.

WADA is developing an “Athlete Passport Operating Manual.” This manual will provide an overview of the scientific principles behind the blood module of the Athlete Passport and will provide practical advice on the implementation of such a program. A number of technical documents are being drafted to supplement the manual and will outline, in detail, requirements aimed at ensuring legal and scientific consistency, as well as harmonizing the application of the Passport. It is expected that this work will be completed in early 2009, and that the development of an endocrine module for the Athlete Passport will follow.

“WADA is constantly looking at innovative strategies to fight against doping in sport,” said WADA’s Director General, David Howman. “We initiated this project in 2002 and we have since devoted significant attention to the program. We are encouraged by the development of the Athlete Passport and we are looking forward to its implementation by anti-doping organizations on a broader scale in the coming months and years.”

For more information on the Athlete Passport concept, click here.

Code Compliance
The Executive Committee and the Foundation Board discussed the first official WADA “Code Compliance Report.”

The Code assigns WADA the responsibility of monitoring and reporting on the implementation and enforcement of the Code by its signatories. The objective of this monitoring and reporting is to ensure efficiency of the harmonized fight against doping in sport and fairness to athletes so that they benefit from strong and fair anti-doping policies and protection that are the same for all, no matter the sport, nationality or country where tested.

Following a two-year process, Board Members reviewed the first official Compliance Report (covering International Sports Federations and National Anti-Doping Organizations) submitted to them by WADA’s management. The Board noted, with satisfaction, that most of these organizations have now enforced the current Code (2003 Code).

“The considerable resources and efforts that WADA has devoted during the past years to help anti-doping organizations operate in line with the Code have borne fruit,” said WADA’s President. “Unfortunately, despite WADA’s awareness and information campaigns, regular contacts and all the assistance offered, a small number of organizations still haven’t gotten their acts together since the Code entered into force in January 2004. We expect that with our continued assistance, these organizations will take the necessary measures in the coming months.”

Following a motion filed by Members of the Foundation Board and a subsequent vote, Members decided however to postpone any declaration of non-compliance until the next Board meeting in May 2009. The Board directed WADA’s management to submit on that occasion, a report on signatories’ compliance with the revised Code, as opposed to the 2003 Code.

Revised Code Implementation
The revised Code, which was unanimously adopted by WADA’s Foundation Board and endorsed by WADA’s stakeholders in November 2007, will go into force on January 1, 2009. Although the key principles and elements of the 2003 Code will remain in place, several important changes are reflected in the 2009 Code. Two general themes, namely firmness and fairness, have emerged from these changes, both targeted at strengthening the fight against doping in sport.

Among the most significant changes, revisions to the Code introduce a greater flexibility in the application of sanctions in general. They provide for an increase of sanctions in doping cases involving certain “aggravating circumstances” such as being part of a larger doping scheme or the athlete having used multiple substances. At the same time, lessened sanctions may be imposed where athletes can clearly prove that the substance involved was not intended to enhance performance.

On Saturday and Sunday, WADA’s Executive Committee and Foundation Board confirmed the Executive Committee September 2008 decision to have the new International Standard for the Protection of Privacy and Personal Information go into force on January 1, 2009. The majority of Members considered that it was in the interest of athletes worldwide to have such a protection in place, in particular in countries of the world where there currently exists no data protection legislation.

For detailed information on the revised Code and International Standards, click here.

UNESCO Convention
Members were updated on the ratification by individual countries of the UNESCO International Convention against Doping in Sport. UNESCO and WADA celebrated the hundredth ratification on November 12 at a ceremony at UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris. Switzerland, Uganda and Burkina Faso were the latest three countries to ratify the Convention, bringing the total number of ratifications to 103. (Click here for the list of countries that have ratified.)

WADA’s President urged governments that have not ratified the Convention to do so as soon as possible, in order to further harmonize the rules governing anti-doping in sport. “The hundredth ratification milestone showed that public authorities are well aware of the impact of doping on public health and recognize the need to further coordinate efforts with the sport movement to advance the fight against doping,” said Mr. Fahey. “With 103 ratifications achieved, WADA looks forward to the ratification by the remaining 90 Member States of UNESCO.”

Compliance with the Convention will be monitored by UNESCO.

Operation Puerto
WADA’s Executive Committee strongly supported WADA’s management action with regard to Operation Puerto—the investigation into doping launched by the Spanish police in 2006. In September this year, the judge in charge of the case closed for the second time the criminal proceedings without charging any of the individuals involved in the investigation. WADA and other parties to the case appealed this decision.

WADA continues to stress the importance that the evidence gathered by law enforcement during the investigation be preserved for sharing with sport and anti-doping authorities. While some of this evidence might not be used in court as part of criminal proceedings under the Spanish law, it can be crucial in the sanctioning processes of individual athletes who may have committed doping offences.

The Foundation Board approved US$27.3 million for the Agency’s 2009 budget, representing a minor increase of four percent over the 2008 budget. This increase is the result of a number of new activities, and in particular WADA’s added responsibilities under the Code, such as Code monitoring, appeals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and stakeholder information and education campaigns in relation to the implementation of the revised Code.

With regard to funding, the Agency has now received more than 98 percent of its 2008 budget. WADA’s funding is provided equally by governments of the world and by the sports movement. The International Olympic Committee (IOC), on behalf of the Olympic Movement, matches dollar for dollar contributions made by governments.

Social Science Research
The Executive Committee approved a number of social science research projects for funding. WADA’s Social Science Research Program, launched in 2005, aims to support the design of preventive anti-doping education programs using an evidence-based approach.

“It is essential that WADA’s anti-doping programs and initiatives be based on scientific knowledge and evidence,” said WADA’s Director General. “Understanding the behavioural aspects and value judgements behind doping will help us to develop and disseminate strong values-based anti-doping education programs.”

WADA received 21 applications for the Social Science Research Program this year and will commit US$153,000 to the selected projects. The Executive Committee approved an additional US$43,000 for targeted research in 2009.