After two months of increasing demands for reform, the World Anti-Doping Agency announced today "wide-ranging" reforms to its governance structure, including requirements for independence in the president and vice president positions that will be implemented before the 2019 election, and the addition of athlete representation on all committees.
The changes, which were approved by the Foundation Board during its meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan, meet some of the requests laid out in 'The Alternative' - an effort started by Para-athlete Ali Jawad - in the wake of WADA's decision to reinstate the Russian Anti-Doping Agency. The agency created a furore when it reinstated RUSADA before it had met the conditions laid out in WADA's own 'roadmap to compliance'.
Most of the criticisms of WADA's governance centred around the presence of several IOC members on the WADA board and executive committees - and the conflict of interest that goes along with it - as well as the lack of athlete representation.
WADA President Sir Craig Reedie, also an IOC member, who has resisted demands that he resign, praised the reforms as signs of WADA's "willingness to adapt".
"As with all well-run organizations, we want to ensure that we have the right processes in place and that we change with the times," Reedie said in a statement. "In an ever-changing world, WADA's role has grown and evolved since its current governance model was first formed. It is right that the structure should develop as well and should continue to be looked at in the future. This should not be thought of as the end of a process but, in fact, it is really the beginning of an ongoing process of governance review within WADA."
The reforms were recommended by the WADA Governance Working Group, a panel that includes representatives from National Anti-Doping Organisations (NADOs), the Sports Movement and Governments, athletes and independent governance experts, was formed after the Rio Olympic Games and the Russian doping scandal.
The changes stop short of meeting the suggestions in 'The Alternative' document - which called for three athlete seats on the Executive Committee - or the demand for complete independence of all members on this committee. However, the reforms do include the creation of a Nominations Committee "to ensure the right people in terms of skills and independence serve in senior governance roles within WADA", as suggested in the paper, with "at a minimum" one seat for both athletes and NADOs.
"The changes approved today will make a significant difference to how the Agency is run and the greater independence on WADA's Executive Committee is particularly welcome," Reedie said. "I would like to thank the Working Group's independent chair Dr. Ulrich Haas and all the members for their commitment and determination to produce the best possible results. It is clear that all stakeholders were well represented and given every opportunity to express their opinions to the Group."
According to the WADA press release, these reforms are only the first of a series of changes which will be implemented. The board agreed with the Working Group's recommendation "that the voice of the athletes should be strengthened beyond the existing means when there is a mechanism to ensure sufficient representation".
"Once the athletes are able to confirm exactly how and by what means they are represented, as well as how their representatives are selected, then an open discussion will be held to determine at which existing and/or new levels within WADA, athlete representation could be strengthened," the statement read.
Linda Helleland, WADA's vice president and one of only two Executive Committee members who voted against reinstating RUSADA, praised the reforms in a comment on Twitter, writing, "WADA is going in the right direction. A more independent @wada_ama with improved influence of the athletes is making us stronger."
Other reforms approved today include a remuneration for the president's position, three three-year term limits (nine years) for all Executive Committee, Board and Standing Committee members, foundation of an Independent Ethics Board to ensure compliance with good governance standards.
The board also discussed allegations of bullying made by Beckie Scott, the chair of the WADA Athlete Committee who resigned after the Septemeber meeting during which RUSADA was reinstated. Scott argued against the move, telling the BBC last month that she was "treated with disrespect" during the meeting, and was met with "inappropriate" comments and "gestures" from some Executive Committee members.
The Board looked at the initial findings of an independent review commissioned by WADA, and while the review did not find that the actions amounted to bullying, the Executive Committee will undergo another round of interviews by the same external firm. "WADA continues to take these matters very seriously," the statement read.
A WADA delegation will travel to Moscow on November 28 to visit the RUSADA laboratory there. One of the conditions of its reinstatement was that RUSADA must hand over its Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) and underlying data before the end of the year.
"A number of Board members at the meeting stressed again the importance that should Russia fail to comply with its outstanding obligations, then swift action should be taken against RUSADA under the terms of the International Standard for Code Compliance by Signatories," WADA stated.