7th January 2019

Open Letter Response to the Chair of WADA Compliance Committee

• Clean Sport has always been driven by Principles: so why has the WADA Compliance Committee neglected its Principles?

Dear Mr. Taylor,

Thank you for your response, on behalf of the WADA Compliance Review Committee, to my Open Letter dated 3 January. Given that this doping crisis involving Russia is the biggest in history, and the fact that many athletes have so shamefully been cheated out of podium positions not to mention financial rewards by the state-sponsored doping system, this issue requires proper leadership and good, honest communication – two things that have been very neglected by the current WADA Leadership. You will understand therefore why athletes such as me have resorted to issuing letters publicly, and that’s because of the continued failure by WADA Leadership and its Committees to be transparent, open, ethical and honest – the leadership instead preferring to playing political and public relations games regularly calling us “critics” and “ignorant” when in fact we are positive, solution-focussed reformers trying to improve and overhaul WADA for everyone’s benefit.

Please allow me to continue to express continuing concerns and dismay at your opinions, which I believe to be out of step with athlete opinion and the public mood away from the WADA Boardroom. There are, as I will explain, good and proper reasons for both my concerns and dismay.

Your response was striking to me – and I’m sure many others – because there was not one mention of anti-doping being about principle and idealism; and there was not one acknowledgment that WADA is dealing with is the single biggest scandal in sporting history. Mr. Taylor, make no mistake about it, this is not some daily doping issue – this is an exceptional, one-off state-run doping fraud which society will look back on in decades to come and assess how the World Anti-Doping Agency acted at its moment of reckoning. People will ask, did the global regulator act with conviction and principle to save sport from itself? 

Mr. Taylor, history remembers the visionaries, believers and idealists that stand for something and create change. History does not remember the bank managers and bureaucrats. Through its obsession with seeking legal loopholes, nuances, compromises and political games, WADA, and now its Compliance Committee is fast becoming the bank manager, with its relentless obsession on using bureaucracy as a cover for the bigger picture issues.

Mr. Taylor, while we all demand legal robustness, do you really wish your independent Committee to go down in history as the body that ducked and swerved the principles and severity of sport’s biggest scandal, and actively seeked legal loopholes and excuses that most see as aiding the cheats instead of prioritising athlete welfare and the world’s demands for clean sport? Your response I believe, ducked one key theme that’s been on all our minds: the fact that anti-doping is about principle.

Justice has still not been served by WADA or the International Olympic Committee, and so I am encouraging your Committee, again, to take a step back, away from the trenches, and consider how this looks to the world outside WADA’s legal channels and committees; how it looks to the man or woman in the street that abhor cheating, particularly at the level when it’s directed by a state system. Surely then, logic dictates that you must immediately reimpose Russia’s suspension as was made clear you would if the 31 December decision were to be missed? 

By writing to you, we, the world’s athletes, are offering you one more opportunity for your Committee not to go down the low road that your parent organisation WADA has already, but to take the high road instead; the road that history will remember. As the majority of us across sport and society demand, please put principle over politics and avoid seeking to justify what is in all but name a two-week extension of Russia’s deadline.

I hope that through the clouds of what no doubt must be a challenging issue, you can see that there are obvious reasons why the international athlete community stood firmly behind Beckie Scott when she resigned from your Committee in September, after your Committee controversially rushed a recommendation that caved into not only the Russian authorities, but pressure from the International Olympic Committee leadership and WADA leadership too. Surely, outside the WADA bubble, your Committee must have noticed how Beckie was unanimously admired for sticking to principle – and not succumbing to pressure.

In your response, I note that while you did not acknowledge the severity of this unique systematic doping scandal which we are still dealing with over three years on, yet you did address my point about “moving the goal posts.” I maintain my point that WADA, your Committee included, have now made it a habit to move the goal posts – regrettably and ironically it is becoming the norm, not the exception from the global rule-maker. Here’s just a few examples:

• Russia has still not accepted the finding of the McLaren Report which was a clear provision of the WADA Roadmap – a condition that was, strangely, changed by your Compliance body to accept the lesser standard in the IOC’s Schmidt Report.
• The Russians have not provided access to the LIMS data as was your requirement by 31 December 2018; you now say in your letter it is best not to be strict about the timeline, but to be careful legally. Why did you not say this before? Nothing of the kind was advised to athletes nor to the public in September or afterwards.
• You held an urgent teleconference in September, so one could have occurred on 1 January. It looks wrong and it smells very bad.
• It is only when the “deadline” passed that you have spoken and said effectively that it was an illusory deadline, and that the goalposts have again been shifted. All your words of denial only deepen that effect.

Mr. Taylor, to say you need time to deliberate on this clear-cut decision – the failure by Russia to meet your so-called “hard deadline” – I and most others fail to see why. You have not received the LIMS data to our knowledge, and Russia missed their deadline. Period. Should rules not be followed strictly, or should they fail to be followed, with no penalty? Furthermore, given the Russians have not shown one sign of good faith since they ran this global scandal, why would you even consider providing flexibility? Isn’t it the job of the global police body and its compliance group for doping in sport to police, and not appease rule-breakers? Flexibility is normally afforded to those who are trusted; not those that break the rules. 

You say now that the data might be made available by 14 January and that surely that is a good thing. Well I guess it could be made available on 28 February and that would in your mind be “a good thing “? A deadline is a deadline, Mr. Taylor. Again, it’s about principle and justice – and justice, to the overwhelming majority of us in the wider world away from the insular WADA and IOC corridors, has quite simply not been served. 

In any event, even if you do ignore the overwhelming wishes and views of the by failing to call an urgent meeting, can you categorically provide a guarantee to the world’s athletes that the data you hope to extract from your Mission to Moscow will be used by every sport to then prosecute those doped athletes? Let’s be clear, Professor Richard McLaren said this doping scandal implicated approximately 1,000 athletes so I assume you or Mr. Reedie or Niggli are going to be able to confirm to the world in due course that this ducking and swerving has been worth it because WADA is pleased to confirm 1,000 athletes have been sanctioned?

Mr. Taylor, please no more fake deadlines and we expect no susceptibility from your Committee to external pressure from WADA leadership who just seem to want the biggest doping scandal ever brushed under the carpet. We encourage and will you to only permit the Russian Anti-Doping Organization back when WADA has received everything and verified the data– this must include all the LIMS data, authenticated, and the samples too.

Finally, you also suggest that declaring signatories non-compliant should be a last resort. Mr. Taylor, do you recollect that RUSADA was already declared non-compliant until your organisation secretly moved the goalposts in September? Furthermore, if an entire country or sport – and it doesn’t matter if it is Russia, athletics or any other country or sport for that matter – cheats the world through a state-run doping system, then non-compliance is without fail a first resort. To suggest that punishing a rogue state for doping fraud on the scale of a John Le Carre Cold War spy novel should be a ‘last resort’, I regret to say Mr. Taylor that this is desperately out of touch with public opinion and athlete rights.

The weight of history is on your Committee’s shoulders, Mr. Taylor, to take one step to start to make the many amends your parent body, WADA, must do if it is ever to recover. That small step must come in the name of a firm, principled decision from your Committee to meet immediately and reimpose the Russian suspension it told the world it would.

Yours sincerely
Sebastian Samuelsson

• This Open Letter, a copy of which is held by The Sports Integrity Initiative, was published on 7 January. It was written in response to a reply from Jonathan Taylor to a 3 January Open Letter.

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