WADA President calls on Governments to implement sanction framework for UNESCO’s International Convention Against Doping in Sport

The President of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), Witold Bańka, was in Paris today to address the 8th Session of the Conference of Parties to the UNESCO International Convention against Doping in Sport (Convention) being held from 26-28 October 2021. The Convention, which is the legal framework under which Governments can address anti-doping issues, is the second most successful in the history of UNESCO, in terms of the pace of ratification, with only four countries of the world yet to sign up.

Stressing the importance of Governments’ involvement in anti-doping, the WADA President said it was vital for the entire anti-doping system that Governments of the world implement the Convention effectively. Mr. Bańka said: “From the outset, WADA, UNESCO and Governments have been partners. We are connected by a common mission. WADA oversees the World Anti-Doping Code while UNESCO is the custodian of the Convention which Governments commit to uphold. Governments are responsible for fulfilling the requirements of the Convention and they must be held to account for the commitments they have made in this regard. However, today there is no strong process under the Convention where Governments face consequences if they do not comply.

“The importance of Governments in anti-doping cannot be overestimated. Through legislation, policies, regulations, administrative practices and funding, they can take actions that are not available to the Sport Movement or to WADA. Governments can, in particular, restrict the availability or use of doping substances, increase border controls and fund Anti-Doping Organizations. When implemented effectively, the Convention is a robust instrument that works in tandem with and is complementary to the Code.

“Making sure State Parties stick to it must be a priority for UNESCO. Athletes who break the rules face severe consequences. The same is true for Anti-Doping Organizations, sports federations and other Signatories to the Code. But there is no real penalty for Governments that choose not to play by the rules.

“For me, this is a weak link in the system. Now is the time to address this issue. Like every stakeholder in the system, Governments should face consequences if they do not deliver on the promises they made. We must be bold and ambitious and ensure there is a mechanism to bind Governments in this area. All of us – WADA, UNESCO and Governments – must collaborate to fill the gap. I believe that it is in the interests of all Governments of the world to do this in order to provide a level playing field for athletes worldwide. Weaknesses in the system serve no purpose except to provide opportunities for those who wish to break the rules.

“The benefits of collaborating are as clear as they are far-reaching. More than simply upholding rules and regulations, anti-doping is about ensuring that sport continues to be a force for good in our world; that it maintains the trust of athletes and the general public. It is tied up with national identity, pride, good health and instilling the right values of integrity, respect and camaraderie. It is about using the power of sport to positively influence society. This makes anti-doping a societal issue as well as a sporting one.”

During his speech, Mr. Bańka also outlined some of the work being carried out by WADA across a range of anti-doping areas, including education, intelligence and investigations, testing, scientific research and capacity building, as well as the Agency’s core business of overseeing the evolution of the Code and monitoring the compliance of all Signatories. He also pointed out the need for more funding of the anti-doping system.

“As a global regulator, we must make every dollar count to ensure we can deliver on our mandate. The system continues to be successful but more financial resources are required to strengthen the Global Anti-Doping Program. Already, the Governments of the world and the Sport Movement are providing significant funding to WADA and to anti-doping generally and they should not have to shoulder this financial investment alone. It is for this reason that I am reaching out for other sources of funding, mainly from the private sector, to assist in the protection of clean sport.”

On Thursday 28 October, WADA Director General, Olivier Niggli, will also address delegates at the Session of the Conference of Parties concerning WADA’s activities since the last Conference in 2019; UNESCO’s proposed Model Legislative Framework Policy document; its proposed funding formula for WADA; and a review by States Parties of the 2022 List of Prohibited Substances and Methods that comes into force on 1 January 2022.

Click here for a video featuring WADA’s participation today at the Conference of Parties.