26th October 2018

Statement by Rio 2016 Silver Medalist Ali Jawad on WADA Reform

• “’Tweaking around the edges’ reforms proposed by WADA fail to heed the widespread, growing global athlete community concerns…they are an insult to global athletes”, says British Paralympian.

Earlier this month (on 9 October), I released a series of ambitious, yet entirely logical and pragmatic proposals for a reformed governance of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). The Paper that I released on behalf of the global athlete community, called The Alternative, contained 4,000 words of constructive and positive solutions for how WADA might find a way out of its current crisis; and for how it might start the work of repairing its battered reputation which an increasing number of us athletes worldwide now believe is self-inflicted and due to its inability time and time again to listen to the athlete community, and to hear our suggestions.

The unprecedented outcry from athletes (of WADA’s recent controversial decisions) has nothing to with us being “critics” as they might think we are; we, the athletes, are trying to improve WADA, change it for the better it so that it is an organisation more in tune with the needs of the public and athlete community, so that it becomes a more modern organisation fit for purpose in 2018 – which currently, it is not. We are trying to reform WADA.

Yet, since I released The Alternative – a Paper which was the culmination of numerous athlete ideas and suggestions over the last few years – I have not had any official acknowledgment or any engagement from the WADA leadership. You might think, given the current state of WADA, and the dwindling confidence in the Agency to do its job, that they would be only too willing to start to listen to athletes more. After all, it is an organisation that is meant to support athletes, not ignore them.

Without any engagement with the athlete-led paper, The Alternative, WADA’s Governance Review Committee then, this Wednesday, proposed a series of completely inadequate, minor and modest reform suggestions for WADA’s future governance that they recommend WADA’s Foundation Board sign off at its meeting on 15 November. Let’s be clear: these reform suggestions fall woefully short of anything that the global athlete community has been demanding the last few years.

They are merely “baby steps” that skirt around the deep issues of WADA’s lack of transparency, accountability and, most importantly of all, its independence. These “tweaking around the edges” reform suggestions that WADA will likely now “rubber stamp” and that will give WADA its direction for years, if not decades to come, go nowhere near what we, the athlete community, propose in The Alternative.

They are minor adjustments that fail to heed the unprecedented outcry from athletes recently for major, significant calls for WADA to change. To be blunt, the recommendations WADA are putting forward are an insult to the thousands, if not millions, of athletes that want to improve and reform WADA so that it becomes a respected, fit-for-purpose organisation for the modern world.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change WADA for the better, to change WADA for good. We all want a strong WADA to succeed, but these suggested reforms, while maybe a marginal improvement on the status quo, go nowhere near far enough for athletes – and I have spoken to many recently – and they do not deliver what the majority want to see.

By releasing this public statement, and on behalf of the global athletes who back The Alternative, I am calling for WADA to have a rethink, for WADA to reconsider this missed opportunity to change the anti-doping decision-making process for the benefit of athletes and for sport. Public and athlete confidence rests on WADA’s ability to start listening, before it’s too late. The Agency’s future reputation, it’s very future, relies on its ability to adapt and to listen.

By Ali Jawad
Rio 2016 Paralympic Powerlifting Silver Medalist
Glasgow 2014 Paralympic Powerlifting Bronze Medalist
Gold Coast 2018 Paralympic Powerlifting Bronze Medalist

• This media release was published by Athletes for Clean Sport on 26 October 2018. Click here for the original. Click here to read WADA’s media release on its Governance Review Committee recommendations. Click here for a Summary Paper of The Alternative: Reforming WADA’s Governance for a new Anti-Doping Age, and click here for the full, Detailed Paper.

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