8 November 2019

WCDS Day Three: Box ticking and picking at the Rodchenkov Act

Day Three of the World Conference on Doping in Sport was supposed to be a box-ticking exercise, and to some extent it was. Seven International Standards were approved by the Executive Committee of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), as well as the new Athletes Anti-Doping Act. The Katowice Declaration was published. The fifth and final draft of the 2021 World Anti-Doping Code was approved by the Foundation Board. However, its meeting, which took place late in the day, was dominated by accusations that WADA had spent money travelling to the US to attempt to influence the passage of the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act (RADA) by voicing its concerns.

Olivier Niggli, Director General of WADA, objected to the suggestion that the agency had ‘lobbied’ against the Act alongside the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The Associated Press reports that documents it obtained proved that WADA and the IOC had devoted six figure sums to raising its concerns about the Act in the US. WADA reportedly devoted ‘at least’ US$250,000 to continue such lobbying into the New Year.

“We are not lobbying against it, but questions have been raised”, explained Niggli at the WADA Foundation Board meeting, adding that WADA had learned about the Act not from the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) or US authorities, but through the media. He added that the “unintended consequences” of the extra-territorial reach of the Act’s measures beyond the US were a concern, as it could have “an impact on the whole anti-doping system”.

This explanation did not go down well with other members of the Foundation Board. “We are asking you to stop using those funds to lobby”, said Kendel Ehrlich, the Deputy Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. She said that WADA had not contacted USADA or public authorities about its Stateside activities, despite the Rodchenkov Act’s requirement that information on international doping conspiracies be shared with USADA.

“I cannot remember where and when WADA agreed to do this”, said Linda Helleland, WADA’s outgoing Vice President and a Norwegian politician. “Private organisations cannot interfere in national State legislation”. 

She pointed out that other counties – such as Norway and Australia – are working on similar legislation to the RADA. “There is no chance that WADA or any other organisation would be allowed to lobby against it. WADA should support anti-doping legislation. I would like to see a full overview of what was done and how much was spent.”

When The Sports Integrity Initiative asked Niggli if such an investigation would be launched, he clarified that there is “nothing to investigate”, as “all we’ve done is meet people in Washington”. He said that the $250,000 is part of the WADA Budget allocated to WADA’s activities in the US.

“First of all, it’s a very tiny amount for any notion of lobbying”, he said. “People who do carry out lobbying know that this amount is nothing. That being said, it is for us to get advice or help in the US on a number of different fronts. The discussion that we had in Washington was only a part of it. It is also to keep a dialogue open with professional leagues, with college sports and to provide a presence in the US.”

As Niggli highlighted, the minutes of the 15 May 2019 Executive Board meeting record WADA’s concerns about the Rodchenkov Act as item 11.2 on the Agenda. ‘A WADA delegation had met some people in Washington some months ago to discuss it’, they read.


At the Foundation Board meeting Jonathan Taylor, Chair of the Compliance Review Committee (CRC), further clarified the situation regarding Russia. He said that “forensic experts” had determined that discrepancies between the data retrieved from the Moscow Laboratory in January and the Laboratory data provided to WADA by a whistleblower in November 2017 would be viewed as “not authentic” unless they could be explained by the Russian authorities.

He said that the Russian authorities had supplied answers to their 31 questions, as well as “supporting materials”. However, those supporting materials referred to further data, which had been retrieved and was now being analysed by the forensic experts. 

On 14 November, the forensic experts will hold a meeting with their “Russian counterparts”, and on 17 November, the CRC will meet. If WADA’s conditions have still not been met by then, then a recommendation will be made to a special meeting of WADA’s Executive Committee on 9 December. Niggli later estimated that the Russian doping crisis had cost WADA in the region of US$8 million to date.

Other business

WADA’s Foundation Board confirmed that the agency has budgeted for a loss of $1.93 million in 2020. Francesco Ricci Bitti, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Vice President who Chairs WADA’s Finance Committee, said that although 97.22% of contributions to WADA’s Budget had been received, WADA had been hit by “unexpected legal expenses”. 

These included investigations into the Russian situation, as well as between $1.4 million and $1.5 million spent on Covington & Burling LLP’s Report into allegations of bullying. Given that the Report highlighted how WADA capitulated to pressure from the IOC to reinstate the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), allowing pressure to be put on dissenting voices, it was a surprise to learn that the IOC had contributed £270,000 to the investigation.

Niggli said that the bullying investigation had been “started on the threat of litigation”, after concerns that a WADA investigation lacked independence. Niggli said that the expenses had been approved but not limited, as WADA didn’t want to be accused of interfering in the investigation.

Detail from WADA’s 2018 Annual Report…

Following a question from WADA’s Founding President Dick Pound, Niggli said that issues regarding the covering up of positive samples in Romania had been “dealt with”, but an investigation is ongoing into the Romanian national anti-doping organisation (ANAD) due to “other factors”. WADA’s Annual Report highlighted that the Bucharest Laboratory had been reinstated after non-conformities had been addressed. However, as The Sports Integrity Initiative reported, there are questions as to whether officials whom WADA requested be removed from office are still employed in roles that have supervisory authority over anti-doping.

It also emerged that the International Testing Agency’s (ITA) reanalysis of 1,800 samples taken at the London 2012 Olympics is progressing. One Day One of the World Conference on Doping in Sport, IOC President Thomas Bach urged sport to delegate all testing responsibility to the ITA. On Day Three of the Conference, the Katowice Declaration urged sport to enhance their anti-doping capacity by partnering with delegated third parties such as the ITA. Presumably, this requirement to support third party efforts doesn’t extend to bodies such as the Helsinki Commission, which drafted the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act.

Athletes make gains

At the conclusion of the World Conference on Doping in Sport, although athletes are still to be granted a vote on the WADA Executive Committee, they now have a document that clearly sets out their rights under the World Anti-Doping Code and its related International Standards. In Witold Banka and Yang Yang, the organisation has a President and Vice President that have retired from elite competition relatively recently. In Ben Sandford, WADA’s Athlete Committee has elected an athlete who is also a lawyer.

Sandford’s predecessor, Beckie Scott, said that WADA is led by an “incredibly smart group of individuals, who are of the belief that legitimacy, credibility and representation should be measured, ultimately, by the actions you take on behalf of those that you represent”. She said that the Athlete Committee continues to believe “that the constituencies that are directly affected and impacted by an organisation should have a voice within it”.

“When I came to this position, it was with the best of intentions, and a genuine desire to contribute to a cause I believe in”, she continued. “To be able to speak on behalf of those who deserve to be heard, and to do my part for fairness and integrity in sport. And in spite of all the challenges this seemed to present, I stayed. And I continued to come back to these tables, because I believed it was still a cause worth fighting for.

“My hope and my wish for you, as a governing body, is that as you move on to a new leadership and go forward, that decisions will be taken with integrity, transparency and accountability as a priority. My hope is that going forward, voices that challenge or dissent will be heard and taken into consideration, rather than undermined or dismissed.

“And my hope is that going forward, balance and independence will be restored to these tables so that all interests in the priorities here are aligned with the quality and opportunity of fairness, rather than with the business of sport. You are the decision making body of WADA. You have a mission, a mandate, and a set of values to protect and uphold. I am going to remind you for one last time. You have thousands upon thousands of athletes counting on you to do right by them. Not by any other stakeholder, but by them.”

Banka has already hosted a meeting of athlete representatives in Poland shortly before this conference, in September, which is understood to be the first time that a WADA President has done this. “We are passionate about athlete voices”, said WADA’s incoming Vice President Yang Yang. “Like I said today to the athletes, we not only want you to be heard, we also want all the stakeholders to listen to you”. 

This is something that WADA and sport has struggled with in the past. But the above presents signs that, within WADA at least, things may be changing. 

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