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  • Op-Ed: WADA Is No Place For Absolute Authorities and Politics (Part Two)


    03/16/16

    We already could find a clear sign of the political instrumentalization of WADA and the fight against doping in a statement that Mr. Pound made in an interview in 2006. Referring to the fact that he had not been elected IOC president in 2001, Mr. Pound is quoted as follows:

    “If someone had told me: here is a million dollars, take it and gamble, I would have put my money on Rogge. In my opinion I did know more about the IOC and the business aspect of the Olympics than he did, but so be it..................! No believe me, my attitude has nothing to do with my losing the IOC election. In the end, I mean more for the Olympic Movement as the head of WADA rather than as IOC President kissing baby’s heads all over the world, delivering medals and holding speeches. The Lord works in mysterious ways.” (laughs)
    (interview with Sporta Magazine (Belgium), November-December 2006, page 11 of the interview).

    It is my view that Mr. Pound - still having a decisive influence within WADA (!) - has used/abused his position in WADA - and therefore WADA itself - for his own political position and for settling personal accounts. He has also made WADA a victim of that.

    I will not dwell on the harassment and public naming and shaming that cycling and I myself had to undergo by WADA and Mr. Pound for many years, including allegations on tolerance of and complicity with doping, later on even on corruption. In its report the Cycling Independent Reform Commission, set up in cooperation with WADA, confirmed that there was no tolerance of doping, no complicity and no corruption. But this loud and unfair smear campaign contrasts sharply with the silence and/or lack of attention by WADA and Mr. Pound regarding other areas under their watch - in fact a major Olympic sport - where real abuses were going on and where those involved apparently felt sufficiently safe to continue, until such moment that the press brought the problems out.

    The fight against doping and WADA’s role therein are too important to be allowed to be hindered by oversized egos, personal grudges, political agendas and lust for media attention which all result in ineffectiveness, rule violations, waste of resources, aversion by stakeholders and loss of credibility. Indeed, in spite of the efforts of many within and outside WADA, WADA has not been very successful in accomplishing its key role against doping (see also Mr. Pound’s “Lack of ineffectiveness of testing programs”; for example, under WADA’s out-of-competition testing program in cycling, WADA tested Lance Armstrong only three times from 2002 to 2010) and failed also in gaining the heartfelt support of its stakeholders.

    Unfortunately the recent statements about Russia and Russian athletes by Mr. Pound and the silence of WADA confirm my fears.

    Following the report on doping in athletics and Russia, a taskforce was set up by the IAAF that is currently assessing whether Russia has met the criteria to be reinstated. WADA is working with RUSADA and UKAD to redress the situation and has decided to install two international experts in Russia. Yet there is Mr. Pound already claiming that not enough is done by Russia for the IAAF to consider allowing them to return for the 2016 Olympic Games and that they haven’t got to the point where they can credibly say they are fully addressing the problem (as reported by Inside the Games on March 9).

    I would say that it is not for Mr Pound to judge on that and that it is not for the president of the “independent” commission having delivered the report on the subject to make public judgments on the efforts made by the interested parties without proper investigation and without a WADA mandate to do so. Likewise it was not for Mr. Pound, and certainly not as president of the “independent” WADA commission on doping and corruption within IAAF, to decree that Mr. Coe was the right man to bring back IAAF on the rails again. It was for IAAF to decide on that.

    Besides, we couldn’t read anything on that in the “Independent Commission’s” report. It would have been appropriate in his position for Mr. Pound to abstain from giving that kind of opinions on behalf of WADA, a supposedly neutral body.

    More recently AP reported Mr. Pound to have declared Maria Sharapova, who admitted her anti-doping rule violation, guilty of “willful negligence” (Tennis.com, March 9). He added that she faces up to four years of suspension, and that not many mitigating circumstances “leap to mind”. On BBC Sport (March 8) Mr. Pound warned that WADA could appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport for an increase if it did not think the punishment by ITF was sufficient.

    These are open threats. It is not acceptable that someone in the (WADA) position of Mr. Pound influences due process like this. It is the role of the competent discipinary bodies to take a decision independently and only on the basis of the rules, the facts and the arguments of the parties.

    And all know that WADA has a right of appeal to CAS. When a reminder is so redundant it becomes a threat.

    And WADA, who didn’t hesitate to call itself an absolute authority, is apparently not absolute enough to call Mr. Pound to order. WADA should realize that he still is seen as a representative and the strong man of WADA - which he is indeed – and that this is not in WADA’s interest.

    Mr. Pound has succeeded in obtaining via WADA a status where anyone that disagrees with him or even hazards nuance and objectiveness is branded as being in favour of doping and supporting doped athletes, so that nobody, including WADA, dares to speak out and protect objectively the rightful - if only procedural - interests of athletes and stakeholders.

    Mr. Pound apparently considers himself to be unassailable and in fact he is. One has to hand it to him and one should not be surprised that he continues as long as the whistle is not blown on him. But it is no good for anti-doping, sport and the athletes.

    It is no good for WADA either: WADA must not involve in politics and avoid actions and statements that can be seen as politics, if only by letting others to make them with apparent silent approval.

    My request to the WADA Foundation Board aims at ensuring ethics and good governance in the fight against doping worldwide. It is about apparent malfunctioning of WADA that may reflect and create discrimination between sports, athletes, federations and other stakeholders in general. It is also about setting up an independent and neutral dispute resolution mechanism that may put a prompt end to any wrongdoings and complaints at the level of WADA. Such a mechanism was and still is sorely lacking. Sports and anti-doping suffer from that, even regardless whether WADA or Mr. Pound or someone else is right or wrong on a given issue. Mr. Pound may continue to make public statements that bring him in the spotlight, but those that feel offended must have a forum where to find prompt relief. They are entitled to that. It will help to restore serenity and confidence.

    Nowadays even "absolute authorities" cannot be allowed to believe in their unassailability and act accordingly, especially at the expense of those with less power or prestige: they must be held accountable.

    It is in WADA’s own interest to put work in that.

    Written by Hein Verbruggen, former UCI president and current IOC honorary member

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