WADA looks to future of anti-doping in the Asia/Oceania Region during Intergovernmental Ministerial Meeting on Anti-Doping in Sport in Uzbekistan

Asia/Oceania region meeting

This week, the President, Vice-President and Director General of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) were in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, for the 19th edition of the Asia/Oceania Region Intergovernmental Ministerial Meeting on Anti-Doping in Sport. 

During the two-day meeting, which took place on 22-23 May, WADA’s senior leadership team looked towards the future of anti-doping in the Asia and Oceania region, and they encouraged the 34 countries represented to take bigger strides in bolstering their anti-doping programs. 

At the conclusion of the meeting, the participating Government officials, ministers and anti-doping stakeholders adopted a resolution committing their support for the continued and sustained development of anti-doping programs across the region. A key element of the resolution was the acknowledgement of the importance of not politicizing the fight against doping in sport. 

WADA President Witold Bańka said: “WADA is grateful for the support shown and committed today by the Governments, National Anti-Doping Organizations and Regional Anti-Doping Organizations of the Asia and Oceania region participating in this year’s Intergovernmental Ministerial Meeting on Anti-Doping in Sport.  

“Over the past month, we have seen that there are a small number of stakeholders in other parts of the world who prefer to politicize anti-doping and turn it into a power struggle between certain factions or nations. It is critical that we do not discriminate nor cede to those who want to place their organizations above others. When it comes to protecting clean sport, it is crucial that we are equitable. I will not allow WADA to become part of anyone’s political game.” 

In his opening address, Mr. Bańka thanked the Government of Uzbekistan and the Uzbekistan National Anti-Doping Organization (UzNADA) for hosting the meeting, and commended WADA’s partners in the Asia and Oceania region for their efforts in protecting clean sport. 

He said: “Asia and Oceania are now firmly at the center of the sporting world, playing host to some of the biggest sporting events of the past decade, including three Olympic and Paralympic Games. The region will host many more in the years to come, including the 2025 Asian Youth Games, which will be held here in Uzbekistan. 

“This year, representatives from four out of the five Regional Anti-Doping Organizations (RADOs) from Asia and Oceania are present for the Intergovernmental Ministerial Meeting. These RADOs play a critical role in supporting their member countries in implementing anti-doping programs in their respective parts of the Asia and Oceania region. WADA’s partners in this region have embraced the power of collaboration, and we will continue to provide support where needed.”  

The WADA President also shared details regarding WADA’s plans to expand its Anti-Doping Intelligence & Investigations Network (ADIIN) to the Asia and Oceania region in the near future. 

Mr. Bańka said: “WADA has been bringing together anti-doping experts from NADOs and law enforcement agencies in Europe to expand the Anti-Doping Intelligence & Investigations Network. This pilot project has exceeded our most optimistic expectations. The network has already dismantled several illicit steroid laboratories and seized 15 tonnes of performance enhancing drugs. Numerous athletes have also been caught for doping.  

“This was just the beginning. WADA’s Intelligence and Investigations Department will be expanding this network worldwide, starting with the Asia and Oceania region next year. WADA Intelligence and Investigations has already begun discussing the next phase with our partners at INTERPOL, Sport Integrity Australia and Drug Free Sport New Zealand, in order to bring the concept to this part of the world.  We are looking forward to the continued expansion of this impactful project in the years to come.” 

The meeting, which included the presence of high-ranking ministers from around the region, opened with participants being welcomed by Mr. Adkham Ikramov, Minister of Sport of Uzbekistan; Mr. Abdushukur Sadykov, UzNADA Director General; and by the WADA President. 

Following an introduction of the forum participants from the Director of WADA’s Asia/Oceania office, Dr. YaYa Yamamoto, WADA Director General Olivier Niggli took the floor to present WADA’s current and future priorities. Mr. Niggli highlighted WADA’s 25th anniversary and the landmark achievements over the course of the Agency’s history and provided an overview of the Asia/Oceania region’s anti-doping resources. He also discussed the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris and several important issues related to Compliance Monitoring

Mr. Niggli said: With Paris 2024 around the corner, we urge all anti-doping organizations to implement the testing recommendations of the pre-Games taskforce. Testing in the Asia and Oceania region is up significantly compared to 2019, and while that statistic is commendable, this is not the time to sit back. We urge all countries to continue to work towards increasing their testing statistics in 2024 and beyond. 

“Recently, some countries in the region have faced non-compliance issues due to legislation. WADA recommends that member countries lean on the Agency’s Asia/Oceania office for support in all matters related to the enactment of new or revised anti-doping legal instruments, as well as for issues pertaining to the legal frameworks needed to establish operationally independent NADOs. A compliance legal framework is important, but WADA recommends the adoption of adaptable legal instruments so that there is no need for major adjustments when there are changes to the World Anti-Doping Code or International Standards. This is particularly important with the 2027 World Anti-Doping Code and International Standards Update Process well underway.”  

Also on the first day, WADA Vice-President Yang Yang opened the afternoon session by examining the importance of education and of holding the athlete entourage accountable. 

She said: “Education is a critical component of the global anti-doping system and a key pillar of WADA’s overall mission. It is the best long-term solution for protecting the values of clean sport. WADA has repeatedly seen the tangible results that Education delivers in preventing doping and supporting athletes in their efforts to compete clean. 

“These efforts must extend beyond the athlete. Earlier this year, WADA published the report from ‘Operation Refuge’, which detailed firsthand accounts obtained from not only minors who had committed doping violations, but also their family and support networks. While we have made strides in this area, there needs to be a greater emphasis on the development of education initiatives for athletes and support personnel alike, specifically targeting doping among minors.  

“Ensuring that the entourage understands the importance of clean competition will ultimately filter down to the athlete. We must all make more efforts in this regard, and Governments in particular play a big part by ensuring that National Anti-Doping Organizations are properly resourced. WADA encourages all our partners in the Asia and Oceania region to raise this issue and push for the introduction of a strong legal framework that will hold bad actors to account.”