Time for a Major Shake-up of WADA -- OpEd

(ATR) IOC member from Argentina Gerardo Werthein gives his thoughts on what is needed to reform the global anti-doping system

(ATR)As we look forward to forthcoming discussions in Lausanne and elsewhere on strengthening the fight against doping in the world of sport, I believe it is both useful and important, as IOC president Bach has said, to reflect and start to think through in greater detail what is needed for the future.

It is clear to many that while we await the publication of the second McLaren Report and all that may flow from that, we need fresh thinking and this has been sadly lacking in recent statements by senior figures within WADA, both past and present. There the themes have been more about self- justification and obvious efforts to blame major problems in the system on others.

So, despite the various inquiries which have been launched, 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 possible scale of the doping problem as early as 2010. Indeed, WADA consistently declared the Russian NADO code compliant and then re-accredited their Moscow lab just ahead of the 2014 Sochi Games, a source of many subsequent issues, having previously suspended that same lab.

Nor have we been provided with any serious analysis as to how WADA has let the sports movement and national governments spend major amounts of money on almost 300,000 tests per year and yet find so few of those who appear now to have been cheating.

In truth most of the major doping cases have largely resulted from work by international federations, police investigations, whistle blowers and the media. The Russian case is a perfect illustration of this, where WADA proved incapable of properly investigating the evidence provided by whistleblowers and ended up being pushed into action by media reports using the same material.

Instead of much needed genuine debate, we recently saw a former senior WADA executive attempting to grab a headline by pronouncing that maybe the IOC should be declared non-compliant under the WADA code. A typical piece of theatrics which adds absolutely nothing to the important discussion now underway about the future and seeks to divert us from the real issues at hand.

WADA Review Critical

As I made clear in my speech to the IOC Session in Rio, it is precisely because proper investigations into the situation in Russia were not conducted earlier or more swiftly that publication of the first McLaren Report took place so close to the start of the 2016 Games. This left the sports movement, including the IOC, international federations and national Olympic committees in a very difficult position, facing incredibly complex decisions in an impossible timeframe.

For me, all of this means it is right to debate a thorough review of WADA and has increased the need to put in place a new and better system for the protection of clean athletes and strengthen the fight against doping.

I personally support a major restructuring of WADA with the development of an anti-doping body run by genuinely independent professionals, with good governance rules being applied to members who serve in leading roles including on conflicts of interest and age limits.

I also believe any revised organisation needs to be physically relocated so that it can work in much closer co-operation with the sports movement to spread best practice and learn together how best to defeat the cheats.

Within the current WADA there are many good people but they and the organisation have not been best served by the system of governance. That needs to change. So does the culture of the organisation, so it is less focused on a naming and shaming approach and more on clear and consistent rules on compliance that are applied in a meaningful way to all stakeholders.

Growing Confidence in System

We also need to see an improved relationship with national governments to increase the efficiency of the fight against doping, exploring more fully how they can help and not just through funding. They need to have confidence in the system and today that is in question. This may need to involve reviewing the role of NADOs, including applying the same rules on conflicts of interest that are applied to most sports organisations.

Our aim has to be a system in which WADA, or a successor body, is truly a regulator and this could be helped by a new board with an independent chairman appointed because of track record, expertise and experience. No other considerations should matter if we are serious about positive change.

This is the case for real reform and I hope the IOC can use its leading role in sport to bring this about so that we can in the very near future deliver a truly robust anti-doping system which works in the best interests of clean sportsmen and women across the globe.

Written by Gerardo Werthein,Argentinian IOC member and president of the Argentine Olympic Committee

20 Years at #1: Your best source of news about the Olympics is AroundTheRings.com, for subscribers only.