Olympic Champion Jared Tallent becomes latest athlete to officially endorse radical shake-up of World Anti-Doping Agency
24th October 2018
“The governance of the World Anti-Doping Agency of 2018, in its current form, is not fit for purpose”. These were the words of London 2012 Olympic Champion Racewalker Jared Tallent, who today became the second high-profile athlete to officially endorse a radical Reform Paper that will shake-up the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA’s) governance to make it “more in tune with the wishes and rights of the global athlete community”
The 34-year-old, who hails from Adelaide, South Australia, lent his full support to the “logical and pragmatic” Reform Proposal Paper launched by Rio 2016 Para-Powerlifting Silver Medalist Ali Jawad on 9 October. Titled The Alternative: Reforming WADA’s Governance for a new Anti-Doping Age, the Paper is the culmination of a series of ideas and proposals considered over the last couple of years by members of the athlete community. The Alternative calls for the sport and government representatives on the influential WADA Executive Committee to be replaced by fully independent* members; and for future WADA Presidents to be selected as ‘independents’, instead of alternating the Presidency from the worlds of sport and government.
At the heart of The Alternative is a new governance structure for WADA, consisting of three central bodies: a Foundation Board to be led by a fully independent President and Vice President; an overhauled 15-person Executive Committee, consisting of 12 members entirely independent from the worlds of government or sport (i.e. members selected from professional industries across broader society, to include the independent President and Vice President) and 3 athlete members; and an all-new Governance and Nominations Committee, comprising 5 independent members and 2 WADA Athlete Committee members, that would oversee the representation and assessment of both the Foundation Board and Executive Committee, and in turn ensure that there is much greater scrutiny of the decisionmaking process that impacts the lives of athletes worldwide.
“In light of the recent Russian doping scandal, the biggest doping scandal of all time, the governance structure of the World Anti-Doping Agency of 2018 is quite simply, in its current form, not fit for purpose – it is broken” said the 50km Walk Olympic Record holder. “WADA has changed for the worse in the last few years, with it becoming increasingly close to the International Olympic Committee, and, as a result, increasingly compromised and conflicted in the global fight against doping. Athletes are now deeply worried about the direction WADA is heading, and, in the absence of there being the robust and single-minded leadership that we require, it is now incumbent on us, the athletes, to drive the change that we all want to see in WADA,” he added.
“The lack of independence, along with the fact that decisions that impact the livelihoods of clean athletes are made surreptitiously and ‘behind closed doors’, are two areas of huge concern to international athletes. This is not how sport should be run in 2018, and it is definitely not how something as important as anti-doping should be run. It is time for change and time for athlete-led solutions, and that is why I am proud to give my wholehearted backing to this bold, logical and pragmatic set of proposals that need to be implemented if we are to regain athlete and public confidence in sport. I encourage my fellow athletes to join Ali and me, and back these proposals, and I encourage WADA and the IOC to start listening – they must remember who they represent,” added Tallent.
“In particular, the way that the IOC and WADA members have responded to bullying allegations is totally inappropriate. It is beyond belief that those who are supposed to represent the athletes treat our voices with such contempt, and it’s equally disappointing that since then WADA and the IOC have maintained a virtual silence on the matter, which implicitly suggests an acceptance of bullying. I believe an independent, transparent WADA inquiry into the allegations must be held at the earliest opportunity. Athletes demand it,” added Tallent.
Tallent also today gave his backing to Jawad’s calls for the WADA Governance Review Committee to make its discussions and meetings more transparent, and to drop the current “behind closed doors” approach that is undermining athlete trust in the anti-doping system.
The WADA Governance Review Committee held a significant meeting yesterday, 22 October, and on behalf of the global athlete community, Jawad and now Tallent are urging that through the release of The Alternative, the Committee and WADA leadership will start engaging with the proposals in the crucial lead up to the next WADA Foundation Board Meeting on 15 November in Azerbaijan.
*Independent member: Someone that does not have a material or pecuniary relationship with the sport movement (not holding any elected, appointed or paid position in sport) or governments (either at minister, parliament member or any other related bureaucratic position); and that is not connected to any related persons in those functions; and is free from outside control; and is not depending on an other's authority within the last 6 months before being elected. No member qualifies as 'independent' unless the WADA Foundation Board affirmatively determines that the member has 'no material relationship' with the organization, either directly or as a partner, through the sport movement, government or as an officer of an organization that has a relationship with WADA.
The Alternative: Reforming WADA’s Governance for a new Anti-Doping Age
A Paper launched on behalf of global athletes by Rio 2016 Para-Powerlifting Silver Medallist Ali Jawad
Over the last three years, public confidence in the international anti-doping movement has rapidly declined as a result of the Russian doping crisis and what many believe to be the mishandling of the crisis by sporting and anti-doping authorities. This growing distrust in the anti-doping movement’s ability to take decisive and strong action has manifested itself as a result of what is widely believed to be ineffectual WADA governance. The lack of WADA’s independence and transparency are the two overriding concerns of the world’s athlete community; concerns which have been highlighted through Athlete Surveys, at Conferences, and that were heightened by WADA’s recent controversial and unpopular decision to vote for the reinstatement of the Russian AntiDoping Agency (RUSADA) despite the country still not having fulfilled the two remaining conditions of WADA’s Roadmap to Compliance.
While WADA has acknowledged that improvements could be made to its current governance structure (as evidenced by the establishment of the WADA Governance Review Committee), the current proposals and recommendations fall well short of what is required. In light of its poorly-received decision to go against its own Roadmap and vote for the reinstatement of Russia, WADA is fast losing the trust of the global athlete community, and consequently there is an urgent need for an alternative vision for WADA’s governance. There is a need for far-reaching reform that puts the interests of athletes first: an athlete-led anti-doping revolution of sorts.
With concerns over doping at an all-time high, an unprecedented level of outrage over WADA’s decision-making by athletes all across the world, and with a WADA Governance Review Committee meeting taking place on 22 October, the time for significant reform of the global anti-doping authority is now. There will never be a better chance to make the changes required for WADA to flourish and become a more independent, transparent and effective organisation that puts the athletes – and only the athletes – first.
Athletes believe the time is ripe for some new thinking for how WADA’s governance should change if athlete and public trust in the global anti-doping watchdog is to return. That is why I am pleased to today publish this paper titled: The Alternative: Reforming WADA Governance for a new Anti-Doping Age. The Alternative is the culmination of a series of ideas and proposals made and considered over the past couple of years by members of the global athlete community. I hope The Alternative, which is being launched just 13 days before the next WADA Governance Review Committee, will stimulate wide-ranging public conversation surrounding WADA’s governance crisis. The Alternative provides constructive and logical solutions to very current and real problems, which, athletes believe, will go a long way to solving the widespread public disillusionment and countering the perilously low levels of trust that athletes and the public currently have of WADA and the anti-doping system.
The Alternative highlights an enhanced decision-making structure for WADA that will provide more effective, decisive and independent decision-making. Crucially, the strength of this proposed new governance structure - many ideas of which stem from existing proposals made by the WADA Athlete Committee to the WADA Governance Review Committee - means WADA’s decisions will, in future, be able to withstand athlete and public trust - something currently lacking in global anti-doping. Having gauged the views of athletes, this paper offers a “meeting of the minds” and is a sensible and pragmatic proposal that can gain the support of both the sports movement and public authorities. Athletes want to work with those bodies, and WADA, to do what’s right for the future of anti-doping. We are all in this together – and we should all want to make the changes that are required for the future health of sport.
Furthermore, I would like to take this opportunity to call for the WADA Governance Review Committee Process and discussions, from today onwards, to be made public. The governance discussions are currently happening behind closed doors, which to us, as athletes, is totally unacceptable. At a time of extremely low levels of trust in anti-doping and sports governance, we must do everything we can to restore trust, not to erode it further. Today, on behalf of the athlete community, I am attempting to lead by example by making this proposal paper, The Alternative, public today, so that a proper and rigorous debate can be had and so that people are better informed.
At the heart of this proposal are three key bodies for WADA:
1. WADA Foundation Board
The Foundation Board would continue to be WADA’s highest decision-making body, the ultimate locus of accountability for the Agency’s fulfilment of its responsibilities, its priorities, use of resources, transparency, integrity and legal compliance.
This Board would be the least-affected by our proposal, as it would continue to be comprised of representation from government, sport, and also National Anti-Doping Organizations (NADOs). Crucially, and in contrast to the current situation, the Board would now elect a President and Vice President who are entirely independent* from both government and sport (given the proximity of the next WADA Presidency election, we propose that this new “independent President” process is implemented during the next President’s term - i.e. anytime from January 2020 onwards). The Board’s members will be appointed based on geography, gender and cultural diversity. A member’s term would be three years, capped at a maximum of no more than 9 consecutive years.
Why is this better than the status quo?
Unlike now, the Board will be led by an entirely independent President and Vice President, with no affiliation to government or sport. Furthermore, the Board’s diversity and its relationship with the all-new Executive Committee will ensure decision-making is much more in tune with the interests and expectations of the global clean athlete community.
2. WADA Executive Committee
Elected by the Foundation Board, this all-new composition of WADA’s Executive Committee marks the biggest shake-up ever seen in anti-doping governance. The Committee is the primary body responsible for having oversight of the WADA Director General, exercising governance over the Agency and providing guidance and advice to the Foundation Board. Crucially, in light of recent events, the Committee would take decisions on compliance and sanctions following recommendations from the independent Compliance Review Committee.
The 15-member Executive Committee would be made up of 12 members entirely independent from the worlds of government or sport, comprising experts from across broader society (including the aforementioned independent President and Vice President); and 3 athlete members (athletes who are retired and not involved in any position in the world of sport - e.g. not on the IOC Athletes Commission or other athlete groups that could lead to a conflict of interest). As with the Foundation Board, members would be appointed based on geography, gender and cultural diversity; and terms are set at three years, capped at a maximum of no more than 9 consecutive years.
Why is this better than the status quo?
Independence, independence, independence. This powerful Executive Committee – which is responsible for steering WADA’s decisions on the most significant decisions for the global clean sport community (e.g. take the recent Russian reinstatement decision) – will, for the first time, be comprised of individuals that do not represent governments or sports organisations. They will be experts but without the inherent biases and loyalties that many perceive are the root of WADA’s problems today. With our proposal for this all-new Committee, the lip service to athletes will stop; and be replaced by decisions that really are in the interests of clean sport.
3. WADA Governance and Nominations Committee
This entirely new body is essential to restoring trust in WADA’s governance and future ability to make decisions that are in the athletes’ interest. The Committee would be comprised of 5 independent members and 2 WADA Athlete Committee members, who would serve 3-year terms, capped at a maximum of no more than 9 consecutive years.
The Committee would oversee the representation and assessment processes of WADA’s Foundation Board and Executive Committees, therefore providing an essential level of reassurance that the necessary “checks and balances” are being conducted in the interest of athletes. The Committee would manage an annual self-assessment process for the Foundation Board and Executive Committee; select an external Audit / Consulting firm that would review the working dynamics of WADA’s new governance structure and make recommendations of improvements; and, crucially, would manage an Anonymous Athlete Annual Review of WADA, thereby ensuring that the athlete voice is finally heard and acted upon.
Why is this better than the status quo?
This all-new Committee would provide greater reassurance to the global clean athlete community that the necessary “checks and balances” are now in place to ensure that WADA does not fail its main stakeholder – the athletes – ever again. Critically, the existence of this new Committee would go a long way to restoring trust in WADA’s decision-making capabilities, and, furthermore, would ensure that the athlete voice is listened to, and acted upon. It will ensure that there is an extra layer of security, protecting the clean athletes from misplaced, out-of-touch and poor decision-making that affects their lives adversely in future. This new Committee, along with the reformed Foundation Board and Executive Committee, would send a clear message to athletes and others: WADA will make independent, transparent decisions that represent the interests of the global clean athlete community
It is athletes’ view that the future of WADA, and the future of clean sport, rests on WADA’s ability to adopt this new model. At this critical time for WADA’s credibility and its future existence, I encourage the representatives of WADA’s Governance Review Committee and, subsequently, its current Executive Committee and Foundation Board, to engage positively with, and not obstruct, this athlete-backed proposal.
I, and I am sure many other athletes, look forward to discussing this with the powersthat-be in the coming weeks and months as we work towards reforming the World AntiDoping Agency’s Governance for this new Anti-Doping Age; and delivering the antidoping reform that sport so desperately and urgently needs.
*Independent member: Someone that does not have a material or pecuniary relationship with the sport movement (not holding any elected, appointed or paid position in sport) or governments (either at minister, parliament member or any other related bureaucratic position); and that is not connected to any related persons in those functions; and is free from outside control; and is not depending on another's authority within the last 6 months before being elected. No member qualifies as 'independent' unless the WADA Foundation Board affirmatively determines that the member has 'no material relationship' with the organization, either directly or as a partner, through the sport movement, government or as an officer of an organization that has a relationship with WADA.