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  • WADA Should be Independent, Not Almighty and Unaccountable -- OpEd


    In a perspicacious OpEd “Time for a Major Shake-up of WADA”, that was published in Around the Rings on 19 September, IOC Member Gerardo Werthein wrote in particular that "we have still not had an adequate explanation on why WADA did not act earlier on the situation in Russia when they had been fully alerted to the doping problem as early as 2010".
    Hein Verbruggen (Getty Images)

    In his OpEd of 21 September WADA President Craig Reedie answered that WADA had no evidence that it could have acted upon and that WADA didn’t have investigatory powers prior to 1 January 2015.

    Mr. Reedie refers to the new article 20.7.10 of the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code which says that WADA has the role and responsibility “to initiate its own investigations of anti-doping rule violations and other activities that may facilitate doping”.

    This clause was adopted in November 2013 when the 2015 version of the Code was ratified at the 2013 World Conference on Doping in Sport in Johannesburg. This new version entered into force on 1 January 2015.

    However, WADA/Mr. Reedie’s explanation is not correct since this new clause does not mean that it was impossible for WADA to investigate and expose irregularities prior to that date.

    Also under the 2009 Code, WADA is responsible for monitoring compliance with the Code (article 20.7.2 and articles 23.4.1) and making reports on compliance or noncompliance with the Code (article 23.4.5). In relation with the irregularities in the Moscow lab it is particularly relevant that WADA is responsible for the accreditation of laboratories (article 20.7.4) and has the power to suspend and revoke a laboratory’s accreditation.

    Obviously these roles and responsibilities imply the necessary powers to fulfill these tasks and to conduct investigations into any possible noncompliance. WADA did have these powers and they used them in the past.

    WADA confirmed, for example, by opening an investigation into the issue whether Lance Armstrong had used EPO during the 1998 and 1999 Tours de France, after the publication of the story in the French sports newspaper L’Equipe on 23 August 2005. In a letter dated 5 October 2005 WADA informed UCI that “ WADA has therefore decided to conduct its own investigation by contacting all persons and organizations involved in the matter and asking questions (enclosed) that are designed to shed as much light as possible on the matter.” This investigation was discontinued as UCI appointed an independent investigator, but the then President of WADA, Richard Pound, repeatedly announced publicly that WADA would conduct its own investigation if it was not satisfied with the investigation of the independent investigator.

    On 10 October 2012 USADA issued its Reasoned Decision imposing a life ban on Lance Armstrong who was found guilty of systematic doping during his career until 2005. Following this decision and the claims that UCI might have been complicit and corrupt, the UCI appointed an Independent Commission, entirely independent also from WADA. WADA, apparently afraid of independent scrutiny in its own (wrong?)doings, did not accept this Commission, the members of which had been selected by CAS President John Coates. Mr. Pound did not hesitate to attack his colleague Mr. Coates questioning his neutrality: “the appointment of Coates is troubling”.

    In an e-mail to the UCI dated 26 January 2013, WADA called itself the “absolute authority” in anti-doping and wrote that “WADA is the one body that has the authority and capacity to ensure a proper and effective enquiry....”

    At least as from 2009 the Code provided clear and sufficient grounds for WADA to investigate any possible noncompliance. The above elements clearly confirm that WADA considered itself empowered to conduct investigations.

    The new article 20.7.10 of the Code has stipulated explicitly, as a role and responsibility, a power that WADA had, claimed to have, and acted upon since 2003. The introduction of this new clause cannot be used to justify the absence of investigations in the past.

    In an interview in ProPublica (4 August 2016) on “WADA’s secret efforts to undermine the Russian doping probe” Mr. Robertson, WADA’s chief investigator from 2011 to 2016, confirmed that he had been investigating the Russian case “for three years”, so well before 1 January 2015 when the new article 20.7.10 of the Code on investigations by WADA came into force. Mr. Robertson states that WADA “always had excuses” for not investigating. Mr. Robertson never mentions that WADA considered that he could not conduct his investigation for lack of legal basis in the Code. Mr. Robertson adds: “Once it was exposed in the media, then I got some manpower to do the investigation”. Mr. Robertson confirms here that the change in the attitude of WADA was not triggered by the introduction of article 20.7.10, that was adopted in November 2013 already and entered into force on 1 January 2015, but by the German television channel ARD airing the documentary “Top Secret Doping:How Russia makes its winners” on 3 December 2014. Likewise he suggests that the Independent Commission was not created because of article 20.7.10 making it possible, but because some within WADA deemed it necessary to avoid that the investigation that was in fact Robertson’s would not come into the open if it remained a WADA in-house investigation.

    Mr. Robertson also elaborates on what he sees as the real reasons for WADA not to investigate into Russian doping, stating that:

    − his efforts to investigate Russian doping were repeatedly delayed by WADA’s president, who preferred to privately settle matters with Russian officials;

    − he was forced to leak information to the media and to call upon USADA in order to pressure WADA to act;

    − WADA sat on credible suggestions that Russian doping extended far beyond track and field in order to avoid drastic decisions before the Olympic Games of Rio;

    − WADA’s Mr. Rabin was informed (in January 2014) of the sample switching in the Moscow lab and that he made Mr. Rabin confirm this in a statement. (Please note that this statement is not mentioned in the report of the Pound commission that reads on page 210 that Mr. Rodchenkov mentioned “external interferences with the analytical operations” but “would not elaborate what he was forced to do”. The report of Mr. Pound’s Independent Commission is also vague on what information exactly was available to WADA at what time, and on what WADA did, or failed to do, with it, which proves those right who claim that Mr. Pound’s Commission was not independent. By appointing its own board members as chairs and by then naming commissions ‘independent’, WADA has succeeded till now to avoid scrutiny and investigations into its own doings.)

    − Mr. Reedie sent a note to Mr. Mutko that WADA had no intention of harming good relationship;

    − Mr. Pound offered Russia “a chance not to face punishment”.

    These statements underline the importance of Mr. Werthein’s concern: what did WADA know at what time and what did WADA do with the information?

    The report of the so-called “Independent” Commission led by Mr. Pound gives no answer to these questions.

    On 29 February 2016 I had asked the WADA Foundation Board to have conducted an independent investigation into these questions. On behalf of the WADA Executive Board Mr. Reedie sent me the standard evasive answer that WADA always acts according to the rules and to the highest standards, so that there is no need for an independent investigation.

    In his OpEd, Mr. Reedie now warns that any reform of the anti-doping system, that is widely claimed in the wake of the Russian/athletics affair, may not endanger the independence of WADA.

    However, that is not the point. WADA must be independent indeed in fulfilling its roles and responsibilities. But being independent is not the same as being almighty, an absolute authority and one’s own judge. Independence is no lisence for negligence or bad governance or contravening one’s own rules. WADA endangers its independence by refusing to be held accountable and to have serious questions examined by a body that is... independent, i.e. independent from WADA in the first place, but also from any of its stakeholders.

    Written by Hein Verbruggen, honorary IOC Member and former President of the UCI (International Cycling Union)