WADA initiates assessment to ensure that the human rights of athletes are respected under the World Anti-Doping Program


The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is pleased to announce that it has now begun an Initial Human Rights Impact Assessment (IHRIA) to evaluate the intersection between the World Anti-Doping Program (Program) and the human rights of athletes.

The IHRIA was first proposed by WADA’s Athlete Committee in 2021 with the objective of ensuring that WADA respects and protects the universally recognized human rights of athletes as it leads a global collaborative mission for doping-free sport.

Former WADA Athlete Committee Chair, Ben Sandford, said: “The IHRIA is the culmination of years of work from WADA’s Athlete Committee. Looking back, the Committee’s work to develop the Athletes’ Anti-Doping Rights Act, initiated in 2018, laid the foundation for this assessment, so it is exciting to see it finally coming to life. Athletes need to be at the core of everything that WADA does, so it makes sense that the Agency would commit to ensuring that their human rights are respected under the World Anti-Doping Program and that everyone is aware of those human rights and what and where the touch points are.”

In November 2022, WADA’s Executive Committee (ExCo) confirmed the appointment of Senior Independent Expert, Ms. Snežana Samardžić-Marković, to lead the IHRIA, and also approved the Assessment Framework.

Senior Independent Expert, Ms. Snežana Samardžić-Marković, said: “Athletes have a great deal of responsibility when it comes to complying with the World-Anti Doping Code and International Standards that, together, make up the World Anti-Doping Program. As the global regulatory body, WADA has a responsibility to ensure that the human rights of athletes are protected. This process will empower the athletes and strengthen the Program.”

“I spent five years working in government and sports administration and have spent the last ten years working in human rights, so I feel confident taking on the IHRIA and am excited to begin the process. WADA’s decision to conduct this IHRIA is demonstrative of its commitment to gaining a holistic understanding of how well the Program is serving athletes. I expect WADA to lead the way on this front in years to come, which means continuing to protect athletes and the intrinsic value of sport.”


As stated above, the idea for an IHRIA was first proposed in 2021 by WADA’s Athlete Committee (replaced by the Athlete Council on 1 January 2023); and, WADA welcomed the proposal, which is in line with the ‘lead’ and ‘be athlete centered’ priorities of WADA’s 2020-2024 Strategic Plan.

While a human rights approach has always been central to WADA’s work—particularly as it relates to the World Anti-Doping Code (Code) revision process—the Agency wants to be a leader in this space.    

To this point, WADA’s approach to evaluating human rights within the context of the Code has been legal in nature. With the IHRIA, we are recognizing that as important as legal assessments and precedents are, there are other aspects of evaluating human rights in an anti-doping context that must be taken into consideration.

Through discussions with stakeholders and partners as well with the Centre for Sport and Human Rights, it became clear that an IHRIA headed by a professional with human rights expertise was the way forward, which is what led to the November 2022 appointment of Ms. Snežana Samardžić-Marković.

About Ms. Snežana Samardžić-Marković

Ms. Snežana Samardžić-Marković will be leading the internal and external consultations with WADA staff and external stakeholders, under the guidance of the Athlete Council.

Former Director General of Democracy at the Council of Europe, Ms. Samardžić-Marković emerged as the preferred candidate to head the IHRIA given her prominent background in human rights, experience with WADA, knowledge of government and sports administration and her demonstrated ability to lead complex consultation initiatives within a governmental context.

The Human Rights Approach that Ms. Samardžić-Marković will employ

Using documents such as the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) as initial references, Ms. Samardžić-Marković will conduct a thorough assessment of anti-doping policy and its implementation, relative to the anti-doping human rights of athletes. The IHRIA seeks to identify real and perceived conflicts from legal, policy and implementation perspectives.

The IHRIA will consider the perceptions of athletes and other stakeholders to improve practice and inform and educate on how WADA and the Global Anti-Doping System address concerns and take concrete actions to protect athlete rights.

Ms. Samardžić-Marković intends on following a generally accepted approach to implementing a human rights strategy within sports organizations, which is as follows:

  1. Commit and Embed: Make a public commitment to respect human rights and ensure this is embedded within organizational culture, standards and practices.
  2. Identify Risks: Identify any actual and/or potential risks to human rights and prioritize for action those that are most salient (or potentially severe).
  3. Take Action: Take appropriate action to address risks to human rights and provide access to remedy when necessary.
  4. Communicate: Report and communicate how the organization is addressing risks to human rights.

The IHRIA is currently in the Commit and Embed phase of the process, which will include:

  • consultation with athletes and the anti-doping community to ascertain their expectations and experiences; and
  • identification of possible organizational risks and challenges associated with WADA’s ability to carry out its core activities in the face of human rights protection and promotion.

This first phase is expected to be completed by mid-2024, at which point the final draft of the IHRIA will be presented to WADA’s Foundation Board. It will feed development of a roadmap that will ensure that WADA is fulfilling its responsibilities in human rights as the global collaborative leader of doping-free sport.

For any queries, feel free to contact WADA’s Chief Operating Officer, Stuart Kemp, at