WADA Executive Committee and Foundation Board expand upon Agency’s governance reforms
- Names of two additional independent members of the Executive Committee to be confirmed by the Foundation Board via a circulatory vote due to the virtual nature of the meeting
- Executive Committee appoints new Working Group on the Review of WADA Governance Reforms, which will carry out wide-ranging stakeholder consultation on further reforms
- Work to further enhance athlete representation and develop a Code of Ethics continues
- Strong gender balance in approved 2021 Standing Committees with 27 women, 26 men and a final member yet to be appointed
The World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA’s) Executive Committee (ExCo) and Foundation Board (Board) met virtually yesterday (11 November) and today (12 November), respectively. The 38-member Board is WADA’s highest policy-making body. It delegates the management and running of the Agency to the 12-member ExCo. Accordingly, the ExCo takes decisions of its own and makes recommendations to the Board for decisions concerning the performance of certain activities and the administration of assets.
Given the virtual nature of this week’s meetings due to COVID-19, decisions stemming from the Board meeting, which was open to the media and observers as per WADA’s Statutes, will be made via a two-week circulatory voting process. This will ensure the integrity of the voting process and mitigate any difficulties that may arise from holding a virtual meeting with such a large group of participants. WADA will then publicly communicate the decisions once they are confirmed. The major decisions taken by the ExCo are outlined below.
A Tribute to John Fahey
The Board meeting opened with a moment of silence in memory of former WADA President John Fahey, who passed away on 12 September in Australia at the age of 75. Mr. Fahey, who was admired and respected across the worlds of sport and politics, served with distinction as WADA President from 2008-13.
Advancing and Expanding Governance Reform
The ExCo and Board received a progress report on the implementation and timing of WADA’s wide-ranging governance reforms, which were approved by the Board in November 2018 and are being introduced according to the agreed schedule. Of the 70 reform recommendations made by the 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.
Yesterday, the ExCo:
- Endorsed the recommendation made by the Agency’s Nominations Committee for the appointment of two additional independent members of the ExCo (for consideration by the Board via circulatory vote) and recommended to the Board to approve this proposal. With the addition of these two members, going forward 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. Currently, one third of the members of both WADA’s ExCo and Board are active or former international-level athletes;
- Streamlined the governance of the Agency’s Expert Advisory Groups and Working Groups; and
- Approved the composition of a new Working Group on the Review of WADA Governance Reforms to ensure that the Agency continues to evolve in line with international best practice. This Group includes five governance experts (two proposed by Governments, two by the Sport Movement, and one independent Chair) and one expert athlete (nominated by WADA’s Athlete Committee), with the possibility of expanding the Group to include another expert athlete. Beginning its work immediately, it will be responsible for monitoring the effect of the ongoing reforms and for proposing additional governance reforms going forward. An essential part of the work of the Group will be to consult all stakeholders, including athletes and NADOs, using a wide-ranging consultation process in the same spirit as the one used for past World Anti-Doping Code reviews. The members of the Group are:
- Prof. Ulrich Haas (Independent Chair, Germany)
- Maria Clarke (New Zealand)
- Adam Pengilly (Athlete, UK)
- Romano Subiotto (Italy/UK)
- An Vermeersch (Belgium)
- Michael Vesper (Germany)
In addition, work continues on additional athlete representation within WADA’s governance (as outlined below), as well as the introduction of a WADA Code of Ethics and formation of an Independent Ethics Board or similar structure. A draft of the Code of Ethics has been developed with the objective of an approval during the Foundation Board in May 2021.
WADA President Witold Bańka said: “WADA continues to progress with its wide-ranging governance reforms to remain fit for purpose and to be able to adapt to challenges that lie ahead. I was pleased that during these last two days, the ExCo and Board recognized the progress that has been made to date while remaining focused on the next steps. A large number of members from both the Sports Movement and Governments around the world voiced their appreciation for how these significant reforms were being implemented. In particular, they welcomed the addition of independent members to the Executive Committee and the formation of the new Working Group on the Review of WADA Governance Reforms that will ensure that we keep up this momentum of change.”
2021 Standing Committees
Following a rigorous process of nomination and consideration, the ExCo approved a number of new or renewed members of each of the five Standing Committees for 2021, with the exception of the Public Authority representative on the Compliance Review Committee that will be recommended for approval in December 2020. More than half (27 out of 53) of the appointed members are women, and 33 countries from the five continents are represented on the 2021 Committees. The full list of the 2021 Standing Committee members will be published shortly.
Both the ExCo and Board were updated on the work of all Standing Committees. In particular, the Athlete Committee Chair, Ben Sandford, outlined the work of the Athlete Representation Working Group – a subset of the Athlete Committee – that is reviewing the current governance of the Athlete Committee and looking at ways to further enhance athlete representation at WADA. Ben Sandford also updated the ExCo on the current work conducted on the concept of an ombudsperson(s) resource for anti-doping.
President Bańka updated the ExCo and Board on his initiative to meet regularly with athlete groups, in line with WADA’s new Five-Year Strategic Plan that places athlete engagement at the heart of the organization’s activities. Since launching the initiative, and despite the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr. Bańka has managed to hold productive virtual meetings with hundreds of athletes from various athlete commissions and groups worldwide. He said that a key outcome of the exercise will be to help establish how to ensure athlete perspectives can best be represented within WADA.
WADA Management updated the ExCo and Board regarding COVID-19’s impact on the global anti-doping system. Members were presented with a summary of the results of a WADA survey of Anti-Doping Organizations that sought information on the impact of the pandemic and feedback on the usefulness of WADA’s guidance documents, which are publicly available on a dedicated section of the WADA website. This survey will be made public in the coming days.
WADA Director General Olivier Niggli said: “It is encouraging to see how committed the anti-doping community is to maintaining the integrity of the global anti-doping system in the face of COVID-19. While public health remains everybody’s number-one priority and testing is only one of multiple anti-doping tools, the number of tests has continued to raise during the last months, and the level of out-of-competition testing in September was at about 80% of the figures of September 2019. WADA will continue to work with Anti-Doping Organizations worldwide and provide any support they may need to help them return to full power in all of their anti-doping activities.”
International Weightlifting Federation (IWF)
The Director of WADA’s Intelligence and Investigations (I&I) Department, Gunter Younger, reported to the Board in relation to his team’s ongoing investigation into the IWF and the sport of weightlifting, which has been running since August 2017. The investigation includes a probe of a high-ranking member of the IWF (Operation Outreach), Romanian weightlifters and others (Operation Heir), allegations of improper practices by some national weightlifting federations (Operation Extra) and a ground-breaking investigation into the global practice of urine substitution by weightlifters and the use of doppelgängers (Operation Arrow). Provisional outcomes of this significant investigation were published last month.
The positive outcomes from this investigation were only possible due to a combination of brave whistleblowers bringing evidence to WADA via the ‘Speak Up!’ program and the diligence and skill of investigators.
The ExCo recommended that the Board adopt the 2021 WADA budget endorsed by the Agency’s Finance Committee at its meeting in August. The proposed budget, which is USD 43,371,517, represents an 8% increase as compared to 2020, as accepted by the Board in May 2018 as part of a four-year series of annual increases from 2019-22. The Board will consider the recommendation via circulatory vote.
Asia Public Authorities representative and President of the Saudi Arabian Anti-Doping Committee, Mohammed Saleh Al Konbaz, informed the meeting that the Saudi Government intended to make an additional contribution to WADA of USD500,000 as part of an initiative put in place last year by IOC President Thomas Bach to boost funding for the Agency’s science and investigations budgets. Additional contributions provided by Governments under this scheme are matched by the IOC, which means that Mr. Al Konbaz’s announcement represents USD1 million that will be added to the global protection of clean sport.
Board decisions will be announced once the two-week circulatory voting period has elapsed. In the meantime, WADA will publish more detailed information on the decisions taken by the ExCo in the coming days.