23 October 2018

Olympic Champion Jared Tallent becomes latest athlete to officially endorse radical shake-up of World Anti-Doping Agency

• Four-time Olympic Medallist in Racewalking backs overhaul of World Anti-Doping Agency governance, stating: “WADA’s governance, in its current form, is not fit for purpose”.
• The London 2012 50km Walk Olympic Champion questions lack of leadership at World Anti-Doping Agency, saying: “In the absence of leadership at the top, it’s now incumbent on the athletes to drive the much-needed change”.
• Tallent officially endorses WADA reform ideas that are backed by thousands of other athletes worldwide, in what is fast becoming the largest athlete-led anti-doping revolution ever seen.
• Second high-profile athlete intervention on WADA’s governance raises the stakes and puts further pressure on the global regulator to make significant changes in what has become the greatest crisis in its 19-year history.

The governance of the World Anti-Doping Agency of 2018, in its current form, is not fit for purpose”. These were the words of London 2012 Olympic Champion Racewalker Jared Tallent, who today became the second high-profile athlete to officially endorse a radical Reform Paper that will shake-up the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA’s) governance to make it “more in tune with the wishes and rights of the global athlete community”.

The 34-year-old, who hails from Adelaide, South Australia, lent his full support to the “logical and pragmatic” Reform Proposal Paper launched by Rio 2016 Para-Powerlifting Silver Medalist Ali Jawad on 9 October. Titled The Alternative: Reforming WADA’s Governance for a new Anti-Doping Age, the Paper is the culmination of a series of ideas and proposals considered over the last couple of years by members of the athlete community. The Alternative calls for the sport and government representatives on the influential WADA Executive Committee to be replaced by fully independent* members; and for future WADA Presidents to be selected as ‘independents’, instead of alternating the Presidency from the worlds of sport and government.

At the heart of The Alternative is a new governance structure for WADA, consisting of three central bodies: a Foundation Board to be led by a fully independent President and Vice President; an overhauled 15-person Executive Committee, consisting of 12 members entirely independent from the worlds of government or sport (i.e. members selected from professional industries across broader society, to include the independent President and Vice President) and 3 athlete members; and an all-new Governance and Nominations Committee, comprising 5 independent members and 2 WADA Athlete Committee members, that would oversee the representation and assessment of both the Foundation Board and Executive Committee, and in turn ensure that there is much greater scrutiny of the decision-making process that impacts the lives of athletes worldwide.

“In light of the recent Russian doping scandal, the biggest doping scandal of all time, the governance structure of the World Anti-Doping Agency of 2018 is quite simply, in its current form, not fit for purpose – it is broken” said the 50km Walk Olympic Record holder. “WADA has changed for the worse in the last few years, with it becoming increasingly close to the International Olympic Committee, and, as a result, increasingly compromised and conflicted in the global fight against doping. Athletes are now deeply worried about the direction WADA is heading, and, in the absence of there being the robust and single-minded leadership that we require, it is now incumbent on us, the athletes, to drive the change that we all want to see in WADA,” he added.

“The lack of independence, along with the fact that decisions that impact the livelihoods of clean athletes are made surreptitiously and ‘behind closed doors’, are two areas of huge concern to international athletes. This is not how sport should be run in 2018, and it is definitely not how something as important as anti-doping should be run. It is time for change and time for athlete-led solutions, and that is why I am proud to give my wholehearted backing to this bold, logical and pragmatic set of proposals that need to be implemented if we are to regain athlete and public confidence in sport. I encourage my fellow athletes to join Ali and me, and back these proposals, and I encourage WADA and the IOC to start listening – they must remember who they represent,” added Tallent.

“In particular, the way that the IOC and WADA members have responded to bullying allegations is totally inappropriate. It is beyond belief that those who are supposed to represent the athletes treat our voices with such contempt, and it’s equally disappointing that since then WADA and the IOC have maintained a virtual silence on the matter, which implicitly suggests an acceptance of bullying. I believe an independent, transparent WADA inquiry into the allegations must be held at the earliest opportunity. Athletes demand it,” added Tallent.

Tallent also today gave his backing to Jawad’s calls for the WADA Governance Review Committee to make its discussions and meetings more transparent, and to drop the current “behind closed doors” approach that is undermining athlete trust in the anti-doping system. The WADA Governance Review Committee held a significant meeting yesterday, 22 October, and on behalf of the global athlete community, Jawad and now Tallent are urging that through the release of The Alternative, the Committee and WADA leadership will start engaging with the proposals in the crucial lead up to the next WADA Foundation Board Meeting on 15 November in Azerbaijan.

• This media release was published by Athletes for Clean Sport on 23 October 2018. Click here for the original. Click here for a Summary Paper regarding ‘The Alternative: Reforming WADA’s Governance for a new Anti-Doping Age’ and click here for the full paper.

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