IOC proposes reforms to WADA to tackle anti-doping

By Jonathan Copping Sports Lawyer Bolt Burdon Law Firm London

The International Olympic Committee (“IOC”) held its 5th Olympic Summit on 8 October 2016 at its headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland. The purpose of the Summit was to discuss protecting clean athletes within the Olympic Movement. The Summit was also attended by a number of Presidents from other International Sports Federations, including the Presidents of FIFA, IAAF and FINA.

The IOC President, Dr Thomas Bach, proposed at the Summit to increase funding to WADA, if WADA agrees to implement the various proposed reforms as set out below. It is important to note that WADA is currently funded equally between the IOC and National Governments; however, the IOC only has to contribute its share of the funding once the respective National Governments have contributed theirs.

The IOC reforms focus on a number of different areas.

One of those areas is to make anti-doping more independent. To achieve this, the IOC has proposed that the Court of Arbitration for Sport takes over the role of imposing sanctions on individuals found guilty of doping offences. This would be a move away from the current process of sports governing bodies imposing the sanctions. The IOC has also proposed that there should be a new anti-doping testing authority within the framework of WADA, and that WADA should have stronger authority over National Anti-Doping Organisations.

More harmonisation of anti-doping was also discussed and the IOC has proposed that WADA establishes one centralised worldwide anti-doping system, with an increased level of targeted testing and a standard level of testing to be harmonised per sport, in close cooperation with the relevant sport’s International Federation.

Separately, the IOC has also proposed that there should be more transparency and better governance, and has proposed that the new anti-doping testing authority, to be established, has a clear segregation between the regulatory and testing bodies. It is also proposed that WADA must strengthen its education programme; approve a policy for the encouragement and protection of whistleblowers; and to ensure the participation of elected athlete representatives.

It is not yet clear whether any or all of these reforms will be implemented by WADA; however, WADA President, Sir Craig Reedie, stated, in response to the IOC proposals: “WADA welcomes all constructive proposals aimed at reinforcing clean sport… [and] …. the recommendations that were put forward today will be considered along with others that we have received from stakeholders on such key topics as: WADA’s governance and funding model; consequences for non-compliance; investigations; and testing.”

WADA’s Foundation Board is due to consider the proposals from the IOC summit at a meeting on 20 November 2016, following which WADA will prepare a ‘road map’ aimed at strengthening key areas of anti-doping.

Further developments in this important area of sports’ governance will be awaited with wide interest!