13 March 2017

Reforms take centre stage at WADA Symposium

The process of reforming the world’s anti-doping system took centre stage at the 13th edition of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Symposium today in Lausanne. Russian Minister of Sport Pavel Kolobkov outlined Russia’s expected path to reform; WADA outlined its ‘graded sanctioning system’ that will punish anti-doping organisations in future cases of non-compliance; effective protection for anti-doping whistleblowers was hotly debated; the development of an Independent Testing Authority was discussed; and many calls were made for more funding, which would be necessary to achieve the aforementioned.


Kolobkov outlined how the Russian Ministry of Sport expects the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) to be “provisionally compliant” by May 2017, and “fully compliant” by November. He outlined what he saw as improvements in the Russia’s anti-doping system, such as:

• RUSADA being financed directly by the government rather than through the Ministry of Sport;
• RUSADA’s budget will be trebled for 2017-19;
• Moscow State University will control the Moscow Laboratory, which will no longer be under Ministry of Sport control.

“We are grateful to the authors of the report on doping in Russian sports, and I stress that Russia does not deny the existence of doping problems in the country”, he said. “But we deny the accusations that the doping programme in Russia is controlled by the State, and in the second part of the [WADA Independent Person] Report, McLaren himself withdrew those accusations”.

WADARussiaMcLaren clarified that he had merely redefined his terminology. His evidence involved Russia’s deputy Minister of Sport, Yuri Nagornykh and its former Minister of Sport, Vitaly Mutko, but did not go as far as Russian President Vladimir Putin and his inner circle. He had therefore “redefined his terminology” following a conversation with Russian officials by the time the second WADA IP Report was published in December 2016 to only mention ‘institutionalised doping’ rather than ‘State-sponsored doping’, which in Russia is understood to involve Putin and his inner circle. Mutko has now been promoted to Deputy Prime Minister.

Kolobkov also said that there “has never been any evidence of State-sponsored or institutional doping in Russian sport”. He also said that Russia had received no reply to requests sent to US authorities for legal assistance to interview Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, former Director of the Moscow laboratory; no reply to requests for legal assistance to authorities in Canada – WADA’s legal seat – and no reply from Switzerland in relation to Berlinger AG, which manufactures the allegedly tamper-proof bottles used in anti-doping.

He also pointed out that WADA’s Independent Commission (IC) Report recognised Dr. Rodchenkov as untruthful. McLaren later pointed out that at the time of the IC Report, Dr. Rodchenkov was still Director of the Moscow laboratory and had just finished working on the Sochi 2014 Olympics. However,  in November 2015 he left Russia for the USA and mentioned that when the IP Report team spoke to him, it had the threat of deportation to Russia as a “pretty powerful incentive” for him to tell the truth.

“If Mr. Rodchenkov had not been questioned, there would not have been a McLaren Report, because everything was in the New York Times”, pointed out WADA’s Director General, Olivier Niggli. “It was a question of checking what he had said”.

McLaren said that the IP team took the decision to put its evidential cache on the internet in order to “deal with the allegations” that WADA’s evidence didn’t back its conclusions. The website cache involves 1,300 documents, detailing the emails going backwards and forwards between the Ministry of Sport and the Moscow Laboratory. However McLaren said that the WADA IP team elected not to put about 4,500 documents on the site. Interestingly, Günter Younger, WADA’s Director of Intelligence and Investigations later said that one of the unintended consequences of McLaren’s investigation was that anti-doping organisations (ADOs) involved in wrongdoing are unlikely to use emails as a form of communication.

He also revealed that the conclusions of his Reports are backed by evidence that he is prevented from revealing at this stage. “There’s evidence that I know about, so does my team, but I can’t tell you about”, said McLaren. “I am restricted by confidentiality agreements and law enforcement arrangements. Until those are removed…I can’t say anything about those. But I know it’s there and some of the things in the Report are backed up by that information.”

Journalists attempted to question Kolobkov at the end of his presentation, however he left the room due to an apparent urgent meeting. An urgent meeting also prevented Vitaly Smirnov, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) member heading a Russian commission that began work to implement change in Russian anti-doping in September 2016, from answering media questions at the November 2016 WADA Foundation Board meeting.

“I question whether we will be ready for May”, said WADA President Sir Craig Reedie, responding to questions on Kolobkov’s assertion that RUSADA will be ready for provisional compliance by May this year. “There is much to be done. But that having been said, the world of sport will be very well served by a complaint RUSADA. We have to get the biggest country in the world compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code.”

Sanctions for Code signatories deemed non-compliant

A consistent and effective sanctioning system for signatories to the World Anti-Doping Code that are deemed not compliant has been a thorn in the side of WADA ever since the IOC took the decision not to ban Russia from the Rio 2016 Olympics. A graded sanctioning system was outlined at WADA’s Foundation Board meeting in November, and WADA Compliance Review Committee (CRC) Chairman Jonathan Taylor said that following a CRC meeting this week, firm proposals would be submitted to the Foundation Board in May.

Taylor said that under the proposals, those deemed non-compliant with the Code would be “given time” to address that non-compliance. Approximately 80% of 170 respondents agreed that an International Standard for Compliance should be developed, to sit alongside WADA’s five existing international standardsWADAsymposiumComplianceCode

Taylor confirmed that the sanctions would apply to all instances of non-compliance with the Code, such as the requirement to publish testing figures under Article 14.4 of the World Anti-Doping Code, which many national anti-doping agencies currently don’t comply with. Asked if Code signatory non-compliance could mean exclusion from sport, WADA’s Deputy Director General Rob Koehler said: “We don’t want history to repeat itself”.

Joseph de Pencier, Chief Executive of the Institute of National Anti-Doping Organisations (iNADO), raised concerns that umbrella organisations that are not signatories to the Code could be caught up in any new sanctioning regime, for failing to ensure that their members comply with their obligations under the Code. Concern was also raised that forcing additional compliance obligations might be a step too far for some smaller NADOs, which are often underfunded.


WADA has recently unveiled its Speak Up! whistleblower programme, which is based on a signed agreement between the whistleblower and WADA that can be terminated by either side if their obligations are not fulfilled. The whistleblower policy also allows WADA to issue four-year bans to any whistleblowers who provide false information to WADA.

WADA’s Younger revealed that he forgot to turn his phone off after WADA launched its whistleblower application, and his phone ‘pinged’ throughout the night. German journalist Hajo Seppelt, who is behind a rival SportLeaks system, said that he receives between five and seven alerts per week from athletes keen to tell their story. As an example, he said that a Russian whistleblower had emailed him whilst the WADA Symposium was taking place, to inform him that Dr. Sergei Portugalov – who was banned for life by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) today – was still working with Russian ice-hockey players.

WADA insists that its Anti-Doping Administration and Management System (ADAMS) has not been compromised by the attacks on ADOs launched by Fancy Bears. However, Gunter allayed concerns that if hacked, WADA’s system would reveal the identity of whistleblowers. He explained that WADA receives just the message from the application, and that the IP address associated to it is immediately deleted. He also explained that the whistleblower’s identity would be stored on a separate system from the whistleblower’s information. Niggli’s presentation listed a ‘robust and technically secure ADAMS and IT’ as one of WADA’s priorities.

Independent Testing Authority

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) first asked WADA to explore the concept of establishing an Independent Testing Authority (ITA) in November 2015. The concept behind the ITA is that it would remove the conflict of interest whereby sport – which is responsible for promotion, is also responsible for policing anti-doping. WADA set up a working group to explore the ITA in November 2015, however a year later it did not appear to have got much further.

In his opening address, Reedie said that an ITA could be established “if it was deemed necessary” to solve any “perceived” conflict of interest. “The ITA suggestion came from the IOC to me at one of the Olympic Summits, saying we would examine it and yes, we have”, said Reedie later, who is also an IOC Member along with WADA’s Founding President, Dick Pound.

WADA Director General Olivier Niggli said that PricewaterhouseCoopers had been appointed to ascertain how much an ITA would cost at the Glasgow WADA Foundation Board meeting in November.  “There was obviously some difference of views between public authorities and sport on how to progress”, said Niggli, adding that a second meeting would “probably” take place at the WADA Executive Committee meeting in May. “That could be enough to make a proposal to be put to our Foundation Board, but a lot will depend on the discussion”, he said. “The timing is either May or November”.


“The public needs to know that the stakeholders are working against doping”, said WADA Vice President Linda Hofstad Helleland. “The public see fighting. Not against doping, but against each other. While we are doing that, the athletes are begging us to develop systems to catch more cheaters. I wish that we could spend as much time on fighting doping as we do on producing reports.”

As always, money is crucial. WADA has set up the idea of a ‘clean slate’ budget, where it will ascertain how much money it would need in order to accomplish all of the tasks it has been asked to do. In his opening address, Reedie said that WADA currently has a US$30 million budget. Its funding model requires it to go cap in hand to governments to ask for more funding, which is then matched by the Olympic movement.

The IOC has already said that it is keen to remove sport from policing anti-doping. Governments may also be more receptive to calls for more funding if WADA is proactive in removing that conflict of interest. WADA’s apparent resistance therefore remains perplexing.

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