Press releases 15 October 2015

Speech by WADA Director General, David Howman


Ladies and Gentlemen, Athletes, Members of the Anti-Doping Community, Good morning. It is easy to forget that until 16 years ago there was no one single answer to tackling doping in sport; there was no World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). The anti-doping industry – and it is now a fully-fledged industry – and of course WADA was the result of a serious crisis that engulfed sport back in 1998. Well, it was in fact the result of two crises.

First was the Festina controversy at the 1998 Tour de France, in which a large number of prohibited medical substances were found by police in a raid during the race, and several cyclists and entourage members were arrested. The second was what became known as the Salt Lake City scandal, which involved problems with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) resulting in the suspension of several of its members. The values of sport that the world had come to love and cherish were being threatened, and it was doping above all else that provided the most serious threat to sport’s future.

WADA – an antidote to doping in sport?

Accordingly, WADA was formed in 1999, at the First World Conference on Doping in Sport. Representing the sport movement, the IOC invited governments of the world to Lausanne, Switzerland with the aim of establishing an international, independent agency to combat doping in sport.

WADA started operating later that year, as a unique 50/50 partnership between sport and governments; the IOC representing half of WADA’s annual budget, and governments of the world the other half. And this 50/50 split reflected the half-sport, half-government composition of WADA’s Executive Committee and Foundation Board. Following the very first draft of the World Anti-Doping Code (Code) and International Standards – in effect, the first set of globally consistent anti-doping rules – in Copenhagen in 2003, these rules took effect in time for the Athens 2004 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The government commitment to recognising the Code came in the form of a UNESCO treaty: the UNESCO International Convention against Doping in Sport which was written in record time in 2005. This Convention, which is soon to celebrate its 10th anniversary at this year’s UNESCO Conference of Parties in Paris, has now been ratified by 182 countries reflecting 98% of the world’s population. This unique partnership between government and the sport movement is what helps the anti-doping community protect the values of sport. Values-led sport is what clean athletes and the public at-large desire, after all.

Values and Integrity: The Twin Pillars of the Anti-Doping Movement

Values remain as important to sport today as they have always been. With today’s “win at all costs” culture continuing to threaten sport, the public and vast majority of athletes value the importance of fair play as they always have. Despite this “win at all costs” culture encouraging athletes to take shortcuts, enticing them with more money, and with the entourage persuading the athlete to break the rules so that that support person can also benefit from the athlete’s success – there is a huge amount of temptation for athletes to cut corners.

The public continue, however, to be disgusted by cheating. One might even say that in light of recent doping scandals, there are signs of doping fatigue amongst the public. Well, it is our responsibility in the anti-doping community to retain public and athlete confidence through a robust anti-doping system led by strong values.

Values such as fair play; a respect for your opponent and the officials; healthy regard for the rules of sport; honesty over dishonesty; ethical behaviour from athletes – doing what is right. Ethics in sport help us distinguish what is right from what is wrong.

Integrity is the integration of outward actions and inner values. A person with integrity does what they say they will do in accordance to their values, beliefs and principles. A person of integrity can be trusted because he or she never veers from inner values, even when it might be expeditious to do so. A key to integrity, therefore, is consistency of actions that are viewed as honest and truthful to inner values.

A sport that displays integrity can often be recognised as honest and genuine in its dealings, championing good sportsmanship, providing safe, fair and inclusive environments for all involved. It will be also expected to “play by the rules” that are defined by its code.

A sport that generally displays integrity has a level of community confidence, trust and support behind them. The impact of this on their business cannot be underestimated. Integrity in Sport can lead to:
• increased participation – loyalty of members and the attraction of new members;
• financially viable – through membership, attraction of sponsors and funding grants;
• on field success – attraction of players who want to be associated with a healthy, successful brand.

Activities and behaviours that define sport as lacking integrity include: creating an unfair advantage or the manipulation of results through performance enhancing drugs, match fixing or tanking. Anti-social behaviours demonstrated by parents, spectators, coaches and players are also a significant integrity issue for sport. Such behaviours may include bullying, harassment, discrimination and child abuse.

The integrity of a sport will be judged by its participants, spectators, sponsors, the general public and more often than not, the media. The survival of a sport therefore relies on ensuring that “the sport is the same on the outside as it is on the inside” and remains true to its values, principles and rules.

As a young athlete in New Zealand, I was brought up on the value of fair play. As captain of my schoolboy rugby team at the age of 10, I remember having to give the post-match speech. I remember taking advice from my grandmother – herself, someone who held values in high esteem – and she told me how it should be done, and reminded me what was important. First, thank the opponents for a good game, she said. Second, always thank the referee on doing a good job. And third, always thank the hosts for their hospitality – which in those days, meant sausage rolls and fizzy drinks.

And today as Director General of WADA, values remain of huge importance to me in my job. But, it does not matter if you are Director General of WADA, or if you’re an athlete, sports fan or lawyer, values remain vital if clean, honest sport is to continue to prosper. Our job in the anti-doping community is to ensure that these values are maintained, and the integrity of sport is protected; that fair play lives on and that ‘Play True’ is our mantra.

My job before WADA was primarily advising and assisting elite athletes as their lawyer. Even then, I always insisted on high levels of behaviour by athletes, and that a respect for sport and its values should flourish. Now, as WADA Director General, it is a privilege to see this in action at a global level. Here in Japan, it is very apparent that integrity is held in the highest regard.

Integrity is the integration of outward actions and inner values. A person with integrity does what they say they will do in accordance with their own personal values, beliefs and principles. A person of integrity can be trusted because he or she never veers from their inner values even when it might be expeditious or convenient to do so. A key to integrity therefore is to ensure consistent actions that prove one’s honesty and truth.

Replacing a war on doping with Protection of the Clean Athlete

For years, anti-doping has been thought of in negative terms: a war on doping; a battle between cat and mouse; the good versus the bad guys. Yet today, it is more apparent that we are doing in anti-doping in sport is not fighting a war on these fronts, rather we are protecting the clean athlete. This is our raison d’être – to ensure that clean athletes have the opportunity to compete on a level playing field. The clean athletes are the overwhelming majority, after all.

Today, under the improved rules of the revised World Anti-Doping Code, we protect the clean athlete like never before. We have longer, four-year sanctions for intentional doping cheats; more effective testing that encourages organizations to test the right athlete for the right substance at the right time; rules that better recognise that rarely does an athlete dope alone, but more often doping is the result of the entourage encouraging athletes to make those bad decisions.

We are always increasing and improving our research, both in science and also in social science so that we are able to better understand why an athlete dopes.  We have an enhanced compliance program so that high quality anti-doping programs are in place in every part of the world; Outreach and Education initiatives that promote values-based education so that the athletes of tomorrow are prevented from doping. And let’s not forget other crucial tools that are used to combat doping such as the Athlete Biological Passport. The potential is there for anti-doping to make greater progress than ever before, but for that to happen we also require good practice from our anti-doping partners worldwide.

And we require the athletes to hold up their end of the bargain. As such, our expectations of athletes are that they make use of the system available to them. If athletes are aware of doping behaviour, they can provide information to any one of a number of “tip-off lines” that WADA and its partners have. Athletes have a responsibility to avoid association with banned support personnel, as is required through the new ‘Prohibited Association’ article in the Code. And athletes also have responsibilities to complete their Whereabouts efficiently. All these aspects are important if the system is to work in the athletes’ best interests. Anti-Doping Organizations have a responsibility to uphold quality practice, but athletes must play their part in ensuring quality, too.


We hear more today about other ethics in sport “issues” such as match-fixing, illegal betting, corruption and fraud. In fact, sport has been on not just the back pages of our newspapers this year but the front pages too. Rather than seeing these other ‘integrity issues’ as competing with doping for media space or television airtime, we must instead see these as values-based matters. They are all issues that threaten sport as we know it, and we must all row in the same direction if we are to combat these problems effectively. To coin a frequently used politician’s phrase: we are all in this together.

There is no doubt, however, that doping is still king in terms of its importance as an ethics in sport issue. Doping like no other issue hits athletes where it hurts: at their one shot at glory, at their own opportunity of a gold medal, and that is why we must continue to work together to protect clean athletes.

As for here in Japan, our efforts will take on increasing importance as the spotlight shines on Tokyo for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. We must ensure the clean athletes prevail when the attention turns to Tokyo, and that all those that transgress the rules by doping are excluded from the action.

Clean athletes deserve fair and even competition. The public want to see fair play in action. We would like to see everyone playing true. Thank you.

• This speech was originally given by World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Director General David Howman on 1 October 2015 at the 2015 International Athlete Forum for 2020 in Tokyo, Japan. You can access a 13 October WADA media release, reproducing the speech, by clicking here.

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