1 November 2018

Statement by Global Athletes on continued criticism by WADA against the world’s athletes and other anti-doping reformers

The global athlete community is growing stronger through a collective voice. A voice that is actively forming in true solidarity. This is in response to an abuse of power upon our individual rights, bullying, the neglected regulation and our integrity becoming compromised by a weakness of leadership from WADA. Our voice has been consistent in response to this confusion; we have been positive and “solution-led” by requesting clarity, transparency, and enforcement of the rules – we are not “critics without solutions” as WADA likes to call us by way of a deflection tactic.

WADA’s response to our voice has not been one that encourages discussion, nor is it of the same integrity, or respect that is the standard of the athlete community. The lack of courage to walk in the light leads to ineffective leadership. Without light, we cannot see where we are or where we are going. To see where we are will mean weaknesses are exposed, but we believe this will lead to clarity, compassion, and solutions – it will allow us to move forward.

It is time to be real, to be transparent, and be open to what we, the global athlete community, see as fair competition. I ask you WADA, may we have a real, open, and transparent discussion about the accountability we need to see to be able to move on from the State Sponsored Russian Doping Scandal? This was the worst doping Scandal the Olympics has ever seen, and no accountability has been taken – surely it is obvious that until there is proper accountability there can be no closure.

Athletes now have the ability to speak up through social media, mainstream media, sponsors, government, and are active on many group chats that reach worldwide (thank you, WhatsApp!). We are discovering our voice through each other, we are stronger together, and I urge all of my fellow athletes to join us in speaking up. We have reached the tipping point. It is time for transparency from WADA, it is time for us to have a say in what is fair, and know that our rights will be protected.

It was disappointing to read the comments made by WADA in a recent media articleThe Reformers, as we are now known, were referred to by WADA’s governance as representing a “small, politically motivated group of detractors” who again, according to WADA, are “attempting to destabilize the global anti-doping program by criticizing WADA”. The WADA Director General stated that the increasing number of reformers worldwide have “done nothing for this crisis” and that our positive, proactive and forward-thinking solutions and suggestions for reform “undermines WADA”.

These inflammatory, political remarks are divisive, and exemplify the broader dismissal of the athlete voice. These words are designed to criticize the swathes of individuals who are presenting collaborative solutions and positive change for WADA so that the organization can move forward – which it says it wants to do. Despite the inflammatory remarks, we still held true to our voice of solidarity and presented our positive, constructive and popular solutions once again at the U.S. Government Emergency Anti-Doping Summit at the White House where seven WADA individuals were present, including athlete champion and Presidential candidate, Ms. Linda Helleland. Thank you to the members of WADA who have been open to hearing us, and who are actively working to keep sport fair.

Briton Ali Jawad summarized the situation so well recently – and the disconnect between the athlete community on one hand, and WADA on the other: “The unprecedented outcry from athletes (of WADA’s recent controversial decisions) has nothing to with us being “critics”. We, the athletes, are trying to improve WADA, change it for the better so it is more in tune with the needs of the public and athlete community, so that it becomes a more modern organization fit for purpose in 2018 – which currently, it is not. We are trying to reform WADA.”

The dismissal of our efforts, however, implies we are undervalued by the organization meant to protect us. We politely ask WADA that the criticism, attacks and distraction tactics (from the real issues confronting the organization) stop. We would also recommend that WADA along with the IOC take stock of its increased detachment and isolation from the views of the majority: the world’s athletes, national anti-doping leaders, governments, other anti-doping stakeholders and the public.

WADA, an organization that once commanded confidence, appears intent on creating self-inflicted wounds. By attacking the athletes, it is hurting all those who love sport and who believed in WADA. We do not want WADA to fall, we want to be a part of a WADA that rises once again, and that is vastly improved version of itself. If WADA rises once again, there is a chance for sport to redeem itself within the heart of Olympianism.

In the coming weeks, WADA has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to act on meaningful and collaborative reform; the concrete suggestions that we’ve suggested that champion greater transparency, accountability and independence. This would be a momentous step forward if WADA grasped the opportunity that lies before it; if it took hold of the olive branch that we have extended. It would send the anti-doping movement in the right direction for decades to come. It is an opportunity to engage with the constructive and pragmatic reforms that have been proposed in the global athlete community-backed paper,  The Alternative, which we support. We ask how these positive, pragmatic and very logical reform proposals can be incorporated into WADA’s plans?

WADA, we are not “critics”, we are trying to contribute to clearing a dark cloud that has covered the hearts of us all. We turn to you WADA and ask for reform, and to consider our solutions now; and to respond to us in future with the same respect and integrity that is expected of us, the athletes, in competition. WADA must act now before it is too late.

Written and championed by Katie Uhlaender
(4 x Olympian, 2x World Champion in Women’s Skeleton)

The Reformers are a movement, a collective voice of those standing in unity for transparency, open discussion, democratic process, and independent governance in anti-doping. The athletes who stand together with the national anti-doping leaders, governments, sports fans and the media to give this new movement its voice ask you to join and speak out with us so we can affect the change that we all want to see.

Ali Jawad has created a petition that calls on champions of clean sport to offer backing to The Alternative. Katie invites you to pledge your backing.

• This media release was published via email by Athletes for Clean Sport on 1 November 2018.

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