Montreal: on Friday, the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA’s) Executive Committee (ExCo) held its second meeting of the year – this time virtually due to restrictions associated with COVID-19. During the meeting, ExCo members were updated on WADA’s progress on key priorities, and took a number of decisions and recorded recommendations that will be submitted by circulatory vote to the Agency’s Foundation Board (Board) next week, requiring Board members to submit their votes within a 15-day business window, after which Board decisions will be communicated accordingly.
WADA is composed of a 38-member Board, which is the Agency’s ultimate decision-making body, and a 12-member ExCo, to which the Board has delegated many responsibilities. The Board and ExCo are composed equally of representatives from the Sports Movement, including athletes, and Governments.
WADA President and Chair of the ExCo, former elite athlete Witold Bańka, said: “Today, the WADA ExCo had productive discussions aimed at moving the Agency’s clean sport agenda forward despite the ongoing disruption caused by COVID-19. It was very encouraging to hear about the significant advances made by the WADA team in these challenging times of pandemic. I believe that the decisions the ExCo took and recommendations it recorded to be made to the Board will provide a strong platform for WADA Management to further progress key projects and matters in the coming months.”
The ExCo received an update from WADA Management on the impact that COVID-19 is having on the global anti-doping program, as well as the leadership and support that WADA has been providing to Anti-Doping Organizations (ADOs), athletes and others in the face of this unprecedented situation. Members discussed the regular updates WADA has issued, in particular recent ADO guidance focused on the resumption of athlete testing as deconfinement leads to the restart or return to normal of doping control programs in a number of countries around the world.
As the situation evolves, WADA remains committed to assisting ADOs in supporting and monitoring their anti-doping program implementation. In relation to this, WADA updated ExCo members regarding the Agency’s intention to establish a Strategic Testing Working Group that will, among other activities, collect feedback from ADOs on their testing programs during COVID-19 and review the lessons learned. The Group will also consider ways to address any other crisis situations that may arise in terms of testing in the future.
RUSADA Compliance and Operation LIMS
As regards the ongoing compliance case against the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), the ExCo was informed that following WADA’s filing of a formal request for arbitration with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to resolve the dispute, the procedure is following its course. Now that the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games have been postponed, WADA is confident that a decision will be available well in advance of the Games in 2021. As outlined in March to the anti-doping community, under CAS rules, WADA cannot comment on this pending case or any other pending cases.
WADA’s Intelligence and Investigations (I&I) Director, Gunter Younger, also updated members on ‘Operation LIMS’. As the Agency communicated on 30 April, WADA I&I has completed its investigation of 298 Russian athletes that it targeted as part of ‘Operation LIMS’ and has provided detailed case packages to a total of 28 ADOs. Meanwhile, the re-analysis program of samples collected from the Moscow Laboratory continues with a total of 61 adverse analytical findings (four more than the number communicated on 30 April) having been uncovered so far.
WADA’s 2020-24 Strategic Plan
The ExCo was presented with an updated version of WADA’s Strategic Plan for 2020-24, regarding which it had previously provided feedback to WADA Management. The ExCo recommended that the plan be put to the Board for approval. The plan, which will be published when formally approved by the Board, will form the basis of WADA’s strategic activities over the next five years as the Agency continues to lead a collaborative worldwide movement for doping-free sport.
The ExCo heard from Professor Ulrich Haas of the Department of Procedural and Private Law at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, regarding his expert legal assessment of the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act. While WADA supports governments using their legislative powers to combat anti-doping, the ExCo confirmed its concerns about the extraterritorial component of the proposed bill. WADA remains committed to work in collaboration with the U.S. authorities to improve the bill.
2021 World Anti-Doping Code and International Standards
The ExCo was updated as it relates to the 2021 World Anti-Doping Code (Code) and International Standards (Standards), which were approved by the Agency’s ExCo and Board, respectively, on 7 November 2019 and that enter into force on 1 January 2021.
In December, WADA launched the 2021 Code Implementation Support Program (CISP), which the Agency is delivering throughout 2020. The CISP aims to assist Signatories in their adjustment to, and implementation of, the Code and the Standards, which are mandatory components of the World Anti-Doping Program.
Code Signatories are currently revising their anti-doping rules, with WADA’s support where needed, to ensure that they comply with the 2021 Code. The 2021 Model Rules for Code Signatories are guiding Signatories through this process.
Standing Committee Reports
The WADA President welcomed the five new Standing Committee Chairs, who were announced and assumed their roles on 23 January. The President invited each Chair to report on their area of activity. Of particular note, the:
Athlete Committee Chair, Ben Sandford, reported upon the Committee’s areas of focus, including the input that the Committee provided into WADA’s Strategic Plan, the implementation of the Athletes’ Anti-Doping Rights Act approved by WADA’s ExCo in November 2019, discussions around the concept of an ombudsperson(s) resource for anti-doping and the Committee’s governance, as well as its project to launch a series of webinars for athletes.
Education Committee Chair, Kady Kanouté Tounkara, reported upon the recent launch of CISP on the Agency’s Anti-Doping eLearning platform (ADeL). There have already been more than 2,000 new registrations on ADeL and more than 3,500 downloads of resources. Ms. Kanouté Tounkara announced that the Education Committee (upon recommendation from the Social Science Review Panel) had decided to postpone the call for proposals to the 2021 Social Science Research Grant Program due to COVID-19, and that the Committee would develop guidance for ADOs to utilize this lock-down period for athlete education purposes.
Health, Medical and Research Committee Chair, Lars Engebretsen, reported upon the ongoing consultation process for the draft 2021 List of Prohibited Substances and Methods, which has included athlete feedback in relation to its format, as well as the WADA-accredited laboratory capacity in light of COVID-19, and the grant applications received by WADA for its 2020 Scientific Research Grant Program.
Finance and Administration Committee Chair, Ser Miang Ng, reported that as of 14 May, despite the ongoing global challenges, contributions to WADA’s 2020 budget are still forthcoming with almost 70% received from budgeted Public Authorities’ contributions (which are matched by the International Olympic Committee). Several more countries are confirmed to proceed with their contributions in the coming weeks.
Compliance Review Committee (CRC) Chair, the Honorable James Wood, reported upon the latest developments of WADA’s Code Compliance Monitoring Program, including the publication in March of WADA’s first Compliance Annual Plan for 2019. The Honorable Wood also addressed the temporary measures of flexibility implemented as part of the Agency’s monitoring of Signatory compliance with the Code in recognition of the impact that COVID-19 has had on ADOs’ programs worldwide. The CRC will reassess the situation as the pandemic evolves.
The ExCo received an update on the finances of the Agency and recommended the year-end 2019 accounts for approval by the Board. The accounts will be published as part of WADA’s 2019 Annual Report that will be issued in the coming weeks.
The ExCo approved a new Technical Letter – TL22 (Ethylmorphine) for WADA-accredited laboratories, in accordance with the International Standard for Laboratories. This concerns the detection of morphine at a concentration higher than the decision limit in urine samples, which may result from the administration of the permitted drug, ethylmorphine.
At present, the next ExCo is scheduled to be held in person on 15 September in Montreal, Canada.