Global Athlete Start-Up Group Statement on WADA decision not to enforce strongest possible sanctions on Russia

9 December 2019: Today the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has robbed athletes worldwide of their right to clean sport due to their inability to enforce the strongest possible sanctions on Russia. Strong sanctions which would include a complete ban of Russia and Russian athletes at all international competitions including the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Russia carried out one of the biggest anti-doping frauds of this century and WADA, who promised in September 2018 to enforce the strongest sanctions, has shown it is simply a lapdog of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

If there has ever been a time to press the WADA reset button to start over, it is now. WADA’s lack of independence and inability to enforce the highest possible sanctions on Russia reinforces that the Agency is not fit for purpose. Russia has played WADA like fools and while doing so has undermined the integrity of sport. Athletes need a strong independent WADA and that is not the WADA we have today.

It is clear to athletes and the public that WADA is prioritizing the interests of the IOC. From day one the IOC has been lenient and has continued to give Russia their ‘get out of free jail card’. If Russia’s institutionalized doping did not merit the highest sanction from WADA, nothing will. WADA had the power but lacked the courage to use that power; likely in fear of repeated retribution by the IOC that was experienced during the 2016 Rio Olympic Games for recommending a complete ban of Russia.

With today’s decision it is highly predictable that Russia will appeal to the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS), another organization within the Olympic Movement that lacks independence. If Russia does appeal, CAS can show it is committed to upholding the rule of law by enforcing the highest possible sanction; which is a complete ban of Russia and its athletes.

Athletes have been let down time and time again. Actions have shown that international sport and anti-doping leaders are not prepared to protect the rights of athletes. The only way change will occur is when athletes take a stand. Every athlete has a platform, whether it be on social media, international events or at the Olympic and Paralympic Games to express their opinions freely. We encourage all athletes to use their voice because freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and sporting rules for unpaid workers cannot trump basic human rights.

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