Australian track sprinter Matthew Glaetzer is the latest Olympian to join an athlete-led movement to push for a reform of the governance of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). The two-time world champion says it's time for WADA to "listen and learn" to calls for a more independent structure.
"The current WADA crisis, and the widespread distrust that has spread globally in recent months, means WADA now needs to commit to a proper rethink on the insufficient, minor governance changes it recently proposed," Glaetzer said. "With athletes, leaders, politicians and even sports fans now speaking up on a daily basis against the direction of WADA leadership, it is a question of 'when', not 'if' WADA commits to this rethink."
Glaetzer endorsed the anti-doping reform paper dubbed 'The Alternative' by author Ali Jawad, a Para-powerlifting silver medallist at the 2016 Rio Olympics, joining fellow track sprinter Callum Skinner and other athletes in supporting the effort.
WADA has come under increasing criticism since its Executive Committee voted to allow the Russian Anti-Doping Agency to resume its activities, despite RUSADA not completing the terms of its 'roadmap to compliance' set down by WADA. RUSADA was suspended (declared non-compliant) in 2015 after a report commissioned by WADA determined that it had engaged in state-sponsored doping including tampering with anti-doping samples from the Sochi Winter Olympic Games.
WADA's Executive Committee has been accused of conflict of interest, as several members are also members of the IOC. There is also only one athlete representative on the 12-member committee, and four on the 38-member Foundation Board that approves the committee's decisions.
The Movement for Credible Cycling (MPCC) criticised WADA for what it sees as inconsistent handling of anti-doping cases, and in particular the exoneration of Chris Froome, and called for the resignation of the agency's president Craig Reedie.
The drumbeat to reform WADA's governance has grown louder in the past few weeks, with athletes and national anti-doping officials gathering last week in Washington, DC, for a summit on anti-doping at the White House. Participants included whistle-blower Yuliya Stepanova, who helped uncover the Russian scheme, US Anti-Doping Agency chairman Edwin Moses, US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) CEO Travis Tygart, and representatives from Australia, Canada, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway and the United Kingdom, including Skinner, who gave an impassioned statement at the event.
"Who and what does WADA and the IOC truly represent? The number one answer should be the athletes," Skinner said, according to the Washington Post. "But what have we got? Two bodies that suppress the athlete voice, treating it with disdain and dismissing it as misinformed when they should be applauding athlete debate and engagement.
"Instead of backing the thousands of clean athletes around the world who have the right to compete on a level playing field they bow to politics over principle, earnings over ethics, autocracy over accountability. No one knows sport better than the athletes. It's about time the leaders of the IOC and WADA remember who they serve."
The Alternative calls for a new structure for WADA, with a "fully independent President and Vice President" – individuals who are not tied to any sport movement or government – as well as an Executive Committee with 12 independent members plus three athlete members. It proposes the formation of a Governance and Nominations Committee to oversee the members of the Foundation Board and Executive Committee.
"We stand united with national anti-doping leaders, governments and sports fans worldwide in calling for WADA [to] not isolate itself with the International Olympic Committee any further. The athlete voice will only continue to grow, particularly if we fail to see a change in direction from WADA. Good organisations listen, learn and grow – and that's what we want WADA to do as a matter of urgency," Glaetzer said.
The WADA Foundation Board and Executive Committee are scheduled to meet in Azerbaijan next week.
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