15th November 2018

External firm to investigate Scott’s claims of bullying

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has said that an external firm will interview people present at its 20 September Executive Committee meeting to determine whether there is merit to Beckie Scott’s claims that she was “bullied” over her opposition to the reinstatement of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA). However, the initial findings of an independent review conducted by the same external firm didn’t conclude that bullying had taken place. WADA also explained that its Executive Committee had decided that a more general investigation is not necessary.

‘The allegations of improper behaviour by WADA Executive Committee members at the Agency’s September Executive Committee meeting were discussed extensively at Wednesday’s Executive Committee meeting in Baku and, as part of that discussion, the initial findings of an independent review, commissioned by WADA and conducted by an external firm specialized in these matters, were presented’, read an emailed statement from a WADA spokesperson. ‘While the initial findings did not conclude that the alleged bullying had taken place, the Executive Committee agreed that given the seriousness of the allegations, a second phase should take place to allow the many people present at the meeting to be interviewed so that the matter could be concluded satisfactorily. This will now be conducted by the same external firm and a further report will be presented to the Executive Committee at the next opportunity.

‘As far as a broader, more general investigation is concerned, this was also discussed by the Executive Committee, which did not conclude that it was merited at this time based on the information at its disposal. However, it was concluded that legal advice be sought by the Agency to help in determining a path forward. WADA continues to take these matters very seriously.’

WADA has yet to publish the minutes of its 20 September Executive Committee meeting in The Seychelles, where Scott alleged that the “bullying” took place. The minutes from its previous 16 May Executive Committee meeting were published on 19 October, five months later. As can be seen in the PDF below, they are written in the third person and, as such, do not record what people actually said, but another person’s perception of what was said.

Scott, the Chair of WADA’s Athlete Committee, told the BBC that members of the Olympic Movement who sit on WADA’s Executive Committee had made “comments and gestures that were inappropriate and indicative of a general attitude of dismissal and belittling of the athlete voice at the table”. As explained above, it is unlikely that this would have been recorded in the official WADA minutes for The Seychelles Executive Committee meeting, which may not be published until March next year.

“There was laughter when I read the list of athlete committees who had produced statements and who were confronting this decision”, said Scott, who resigned from WADA’s Compliance Review Committee (CRC) over the decision to reinstate RUSADA. The fact that Scott made a presentation to The Seychelles Executive Committee meeting in protest against the reinstatement of RUSADA appears to contradict a claim made in a letter, signed by Reedie, which argued that athletes only expressed dissatisfaction with the decision to reinstate RUSADA in public. The extraordinary letter of response to Victoria Aggar, another member of WADA’s Athlete Committee, pointed out that Scott had initially supported the decision to reinstate RUSADA. Scott told the BBC that she changed her mind once she understood the ramifications of the decision.

‘WADA Athlete Committee Chair Beckie Scott, who was previously a member of the CRC, participated fully throughout the elaboration of the proposal’, read the letter. ‘She agreed with the recommendation that was submitted by the CRC to WADA and to Russia back in June, before being approved by the WADA ExCo. As an experienced athlete representative, Ms. Scott was intimately involved in every step of the process. You too, as a member of the WADA Athlete Committee, had the opportunity to ask questions or express dissatisfaction to the CRC Chair, Jonathan Taylor, in a conference call organized for the WADA Athlete Committee following the CRC’s recommendation. Yet dissatisfaction has only ever been conveyed publicly.’

It would appear that WADA wrote this response to Aggar knowing that Scott had presented the concerns of athlete organisations, privately, to the WADA Executive Committee on 20 September. ‘I have endeavoured to explain what is a complex and, to some, unpopular decision that I support’, continued the letter. ‘Because of its complexity, it does require one to want to understand the rationale and to be prepared to leave the emotion aside and think of the end game’.

Moving the bar on RUSADA

The published minutes of the 16 May meeting show that there was heated disagreement over whether WADA should ‘move the bar’ regarding Russia’s adherence to WADA’s Roadmap to Compliance, four months prior to the September Executive Committee meeting. Francesco Ricci Bitti, President of the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF) and a member of the WADA Executive Committee and Foundation Board warned that WADA could lose credibility if it ‘moved the bar’.

They reveal that in May, WADA President Sir Craig Reedie accepted that WADA could change its policy regarding whether RUSADA must meet the two remaining conditions in its Roadmap to Compliance. ‘The Chairman [Reedie] accepted that all sorts of things were possible’, it reads. ‘The major policy, which had been held for the past 13 months, was that the road map was the way ahead. If WADA was going to change that policy, it could do so, but he wanted everybody to change that in the full knowledge of all of the facts. WADA would be moving the bar in terms of changing the conditions. Bar-moving would be part of the exercise, and once it had been done, there would no longer be a bar, or there would be a bar, but the members would be able to take a decision based on facts. 

‘The Chairman repeated that that was why he wanted, as he had suggested, a proper document on which the members would decide whether the policy of the Executive Committee and WADA would remain or be changed. That was all he was saying. Whether it was moved or changed did not matter. A decision was needed and a decision would be taken on proper facts.’

Analysis

Ed Moses, Chair of the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), has written a letter to WADA calling for an independent investigation into the ‘culture of intimidation’ that he alleges exists at WADA, reports the BBC. WADA has previously denied that Moses was told to “shut up” at the May Foundation Board meeting, which took place the day after the May Executive Board meeting.

The minutes from this meeting have yet to be published. This is despite the fact that the meeting took place just two days after the May Executive Committee meeting, for which the minutes have been published. However, for the reasons outlined above, they are also unlikely to reveal whether Moses was told to “shut up”. Moses’s letter said that WADA’s response to his allegations has been ‘insufficient on numerous levels’, reports the BBC.

Even in WADA’s heavily regulation-based world, there is nothing prohibiting its members from expressing dissatisfaction with a viewpoint they do not agree with. As explained above, whether the heated debate at the May meeting descended into pillory by September will be difficult to determine. Scott’s claims are based on the reaction to her presentation, and Moses has not specified the context in which he alleges the offending comment was made. 

Whether any of this constitutes “bullying” will be difficult to determine. However, as both Scott and Moses both consider themselves to represent the views of the athletes, the reaction to their claims is likely to further fuel calls for greater athlete representation on WADA’s Boards and Committees.

Today, WADA’s Foundation Board approved recommendations made by its Governance Working Group about how to strengthen WADA’s governance structures. The view from athletes is that these changes, as well as its response to claims of “bullying”, do not go far enough. 

You may also like...

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This