THE BIG PICTURE: “Emergency summit” rips WADA for Russian reinstatement

An “emergency summit” of national anti-doping agencies and athletes was called by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and held on Wednesday in Washington, D.C. to promote reform of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

This is the latest pressure tactic – coming two days after a similar meeting in Paris (FRA) – from the national anti-doping organizations and some athlete groups which are protesting the conditional reinstatement of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency by the WADA Executive Committee in September. And WADA itself was not invited to this meeting, although individuals who sit on the Executive Committee were present.

The “Washington Anti-Doping Summit Declaration” stated that “As a result of the recent state-sponsored doping crisis in Russia, and widespread athlete and public disillusionment in how the crisis was handled, confidence in clean sport is at an all-time low” and, among other requests, “The governance structure of WADA must be overhauled in a significant and meaningful way. Individuals with active roles in sport must not simultaneously serve in leadership positions at WADA.”

WADA itself has already heard this, emphasizing at its own Global Education Conference in Beijing (CHN) last week “the WADA Athlete Committee’s development of an Anti-Doping Charter of Athlete Rights” and “the role of education in clean sport programs.”

The tragedy of the situation is that the conditional reinstatement of Russia has touched off a civil war within the anti-doping community instead of efforts to further find and deter doping, especially through athlete education. And as WADA is funded by the International Olympic Committee and by governments, this is a dangerous game being played by the national anti-doping organizations and athlete groups, who risk having the IOC and government ministries reduce or cancel their funding in view of other priorities. Cooler heads and in-depth discussions could produce a better result than public indignation, but time will tell.