SII Focus 23 November 2015

Foundation Board meeting: Time for WADA 2.0?

The 2015 World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Foundation Board Meeting may prove to be a watershed moment for the organisation. After finding the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) non-compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code, the Foundation Board argued that it needs better funding to investigate whether countries – such as Russia and Kenya – are effectively complying with the Code. The Foundation Board has accepted that a new level of resource will be needed to fund anti-doping investigations and to better protect whistleblowers. “I will now write to all public authority stakeholders and ask them to make further contributions specifically to fund anti-doping investigations”, said WADA President Sir Craig Reedie after the meeting. “Following any commitments made, I will then immediately approach the IOC [International Olympic Committee] to seek matching funding.”

Adoption of the Independent Commission’s recommendations

At the meeting, the WADA Executive committee announced that it has already begun the process of adopting all 18 recommendations relating to WADA outlined in the Independent Commission’s 9 November Report. This move towards adoption exemplified the running theme of the meeting: WADA looking to expand the scope of its mandate beyond regulating the compliance of member National Anti-Doing Organisations (NADOs), international federations, and National Olympic Committees (NOCs) with responsibility for anti-doping with the Code.

Expansion of the Independent Commission’s mandate

The mandate of WADA’s Independent Commission could still be extended to cover all sport in Russia. After reviewing the findings of the Independent Commission regarding systemic doping and the All Russian Athletics Federation’s (ARAF) non-compliance with the Code, many Foundation Board members asked for such an extension. Reedie said he would be meeting with Russian authorities about their doping compliance and if he and WADA are not satisfied with Russia’s responses to questions in that meeting, the IC’s mandate will expand.

Russia’s response

Whilst admitting that the findings detailed in the Independent Commission’s report are unacceptable, Russian Deputy Minister for Sport Pavel Kolobkov also warned that innocent athletes are being affected by Russia’s suspension from world athletics. He also requested an expedited re-accreditation process for the Moscow laboratory, after its accreditation was withdrawn by WADA on 10 November. “If everything that is in the report actually took place, it is unacceptable”, said Kolobkov, who also warned that “clean athletes should not be limited in their participation in sport.”

However WADA warned Kolobkov against moving forward with planned legislation to remove funding from RUSADA and the Moscow laboratory. Independent Commission Chairman Dick Pound said that this would not solve any of Russia’s problems, and would be akin to “throwing out the baby with the bath water.”

WADA’s new compliance role

The recommendations within the IC’s report include expanding WADA’s role as a Code compliance regulator. Many members of the Board in their commission reports stated that they believed monitoring Code compliance was a key area in which WADA should increase activity.

On this note, the Compliance Review Committee (CRC) outlined one of its new compliance procedures; the self-assessment survey. This allows WADA signatories to examine and report their own procedures to WADA. According to the CRC, this allows a more collaborative approach to compliance monitoring between WADA and Code signatories. The CRC said that implementation of the programme is on track, and based on trials appears to work well.

Compliance findings

In addition to Russia, the CRC also recommended that five signatory nations, Andorra, Argentina, Bolivia, Israel and Ukraine, be suspended for Code non-compliance. Likewise, the CRC cited six signatories which it recommended WADA put on a four month ‘watch list’ to become compliant: Belgium, Brazil, France, Greece, Mexico and Spain. The board agreed with the CRC’s guidance, voting unanimously to enact the CRC’s suggested sanctions. Aside from Russia, which he believes has “a lot of work to do” in the realm of code compliance, President Reedie is confident that the 12 additional countries sanctioned are on the road to compliance, and “need to complete the exercise.”

Kenya’s Code compliance was also questioned during the meeting. “Kenya is in the system in terms of [WADA’s] compliance program”, said WADA Director General David Howman, who added that if Kenya answers compliance questions sufficiently, WADA will not need it to take part in a further compliance inquiry.

Non-compliance sanctions

Numerous Foundation Board members expressed concern over WADA’s lack of power to levy sanctions against organisations it found non-compliant. Edwin Moses, chair of WADA’s Education Committee, said that declaring Russia non-compliant with the Code would be merely “words on paper”. While reviewing the findings of non-compliance, one board member asked rhetorically “What is the point of declaring non-compliance if there is no sanction to levy?”

However, according to WADA, “stakeholders […] who have jurisdiction to impose consequences on those who are declared non-compliant by WADA’s Foundation Board may do so”. This is outlined in WADA’s suestions and answers on compliance monitoring on its internet site. The Code also provides for specific provisions that can be applied to non-compliant countries, including, bars for bidding for major sporting events, cancellation of scheduled events, and ‘symbolic consequences’.

Three countries identified by the Independent Commission as having issues with compliance, France, Brazil, and Russia, are due to host major international sporting events within the next three years. UEFA’s Euro 2016 tournament is in France, the Rio 2016 Olympic Games is in Brazil, and the 2018 FIFA World Cup is in Russia. When asked about the possibility of these events being cancelled, or moving to compliant countries, Reedie argued that France and Brazil are on the way to compliance. “We have been working with them for years”, he said. “It’s a question of how long are we prepared to wait.” Reedie stated that it was clear Brazil understood what was required to become Code complaint and that “France has a very small step to go”.

Questions remain regarding Russia; as its anti-doping agency, its laboratory and its athletics federation have all been suspended. Reedie stated that the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has suspended Russia’s hosting of, or participation in, international athletics events until the compliance issues had been resolved. However, he did not offer comment on how the suspension of RUSADA could affect other major sport events in Russia, such the 2018 World Cup, or how it would affect Russian athletes competing in other international sporting competitions during the compliance remediation process, such as UEFA’s Euro 2016.

During the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, samples were shipped to the Lausanne laboratory, as the Brazil laboratory was suspended during the tournament. It is assumed that a similar solution would be agreed for athletes competing in sports other than athletics, while RUSADA and Moscow’s laboratory resolve their issues.

WADA’s new role and funding

An expanded WADA  mandate would require additional financial resources, according to the Foundation Board. When asked what is the single most important measure that can be taken to eradicate doping, Reedie responded: “As far as the World Anti-Doping Agency is concerned, if somebody would give us sufficient resources, we could do something about it. I think we move mountains with inadequate revenue.” Total cost to date for the Independent Commission topped out at US$1.3 million. An ongoing compliance commission would require similar funds or more to operate, in addition to WADA’s current funding. “Our mandate has changed”, said Dick Pound, President of the Independent Commission. “It’s time to step back, look at financing, and see how that changing mandate changes that”.

Additional themes

In addition to Code compliance, and WADA’s changing role in the anti-doping movement, numerous committee representatives and board members brought up the need for a better system to help whistle blowers and a more uniform utilisation and implementation of the Anti-Doping Administration and Management System (ADAMS) throughout world sport. There was a major consensus that the use of ADAMS should be compulsory rather than voluntary. Board members also highlighted that the ADAMS system is especially essential for monitoring longitudinal testing metrics, such as the Athlete Biological Passport.

Conclusion: a costly process

WADA has followed the recommendations of its Independent Commission by suspending RUSADA, which means that athletes from Russia will need to find an alternative means of being tested in order to compete on the world stage. It cannot have been the intention of the Independent Commission to entirely stop testing of Russian athletes, yet this is the situation many could find themselves in.

Who will test the Russians and at which laboratory? As has already been highlighted by the Sports Integrity Initiative, question marks also exist about the Moscow laboratory’s nearest WADA-accredited neighbour, in Lausanne.

Russia has a legitimate claim that its clean athletes are being unfairly penalised. Russian athletes, or indeed ARAF, could challenge the IAAF suspension at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) as disproportionate. “There are strong grounds for the Russian athletes and, potentially, the federation as well to challenge the validity of the sanction, because the parameters of the ban implicates individual athletes who are innocent”, Nick de Marco of Blackstone Chambers told the Sports Integrity Initiative. After all, WADA’s Independent Commission found that the institutions governing sport and athlete coaches were as much to blame as the athletes for systemic Russian doping – if not more so.

Once again, it is investigative work by journalists and WADA’s Independent Commission that uncovered the problems in Russia, rather than tests conducted on athletes. As mentioned, the Independent Commission’s investigation cost $1.3 million – not to mention the money already spent by ARD and the Sunday Times in investigating the situation in the first place.

Understandably buoyed by the success of its investigation, WADA plans to go once again, cap in hand, to governments. In March, governments coughed up US$6 million as part of a IOC-initiated fund to ‘protect the clean athlete’. This was in addition to the $27.5 million they already provide as co-funders of WADA along with the Olympic movement.

Testing athletes already costs a lot of money. UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) recently expressed disappointment over planned cuts to its budget. It mentioned that the standard urine test costs £371 (US$561) and standard athlete biological passport test costs £439 (US$664). Typically, the number of anti-doping rule violations (ADRVs) reported by NADOs ranges from 0% to 4% of tests conducted. UKAD reported 33 ADRVs in 2014/15 from 7,643 tests – 0.43% of tests resulted in an ADRV, but the real number could be lower, as UKAD confirmed that the 33 ADRVs included non-analytical findings.

Contrast this with a doping prevalence study published in 2011 by Tübingen University for WADA, which found that as many as 45% of 2,163 elite athletes may have doped during the past year. For many, the Russian situation has highlighted that testing alone is not catching determined dopers. The testing regime is necessary for the deterrent effect that it has on athletes considering doping, however the effectiveness of this deterrent effect is almost impossible to measure. Also, as the Sports Integrity Initiative has pointed out before, more money doesn’t necessarily equal better anti-doping. It can just mean more anti-doping.

Testing Russian athletes outside of Russia will cost money. A likely CAS challenge from Russia or its athletes against their ban will cost money. Serious investigations cost money. Testing also costs money. Given the current media focus on activities at FIFA and the IAAF, WADA could have a hard job convincing the world’s governments to give more money to a system that is perceived – rightly or wrongly – as unable to govern itself.

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