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Reactions to WADA's Independent Commission Report

On 9 November 2015, an Independent Commission appointed by WADA and led by former WADA President Dick Pound presented a report (the ‘Report’) on the investigations into suspected and systemic doping by Russian athletes following allegations that surfaced in a documentary by German broadcaster ARD and The Sunday Times. The Report has overarching implications, as the Commission found sufficient grounds to prompt a French police investigation into IAAF officials.

 Percy Wilman, associate editor of World Sports Law Report, spoke to Kendrah Potts and Dr. Gregory Ioannidis and got their initial reactions about the Report.

Kendrah Potts, Legal Director in the Sports Group at Mishcon de Reya

'In summary, the [Independent] Commission confirmed “the existence of widespread cheating through the use of doping substances” by Russian athletes. This is said to have been facilitated (and often imposed) and/or covered up by various coaches, doctors and officials, including at the Moscow laboratory, Russian NADO (‘RUSADA’) and the national athletics federation (‘ARAF’). The Report also states that in the Commission’s view, “Russia is not the only country, nor athletics the only sport, facing the problem of orchestrated doping in sport.”

 The direct consequences for athletics will be far-reaching. The report recommends that RUSADA and the ARAF be declared non-compliant with the WADA Code. The Commission also identified “corruption and bribery practices at the highest levels of international athletics” and evidence has been sent to Interpol for further investigation. The IAAF has been advised to appoint an independent chief compliance officer to monitor Code compliance.

 Beyond athletics, the report is a salutary reminder of the importance of good governance at the highest levels of sport. The WADA Commission also provides further evidence to support the increased focus on investigations and intelligence in the 2015 WADA Code. The Commission relied, inter alia, on cyber analysis, whistleblowers and vast quantities of documentary evidence. The Commission’s findings underline, again, the value of investigation teams, which should complement testing programmes, as a means to combat doping.'

Dr. Gregory Ioannidis, Senior Lecturer in Law at Sheffield Hallam University, Academic Associate at Kings Chambers and Editorial Board Member of World Sports Law Report

'The implications arising out of the current investigation are enormous not just for the individuals concerned but also for the sport as a whole. The Report makes reference to facts, pieces of evidence and possible anti-doping violations that are neither legally nor morally acceptable. The content of the Report can only be described as shocking, but for those who have been acting against the IAAF in anti-doping matters, such content is not surprising; it confirms several suspicions that the sport is not clean. This time it becomes evident that it is not only the athletes who are at fault, but also those who have been entrusted with the safeguarding of the sport, the athletes’ health and the level playing field.

There is no doubt that fairness, transparency, accountability and integrity, are no longer present. The sporting governing body responsible for international athletics has damaged its own existence and the image of its sport beyond repair. The Report recommends sanction for a certain country. But before any sanctions could be applied against any countries, it is the IAAF that needs to rule upon its self. Self-regulation is at its lowest point and there is no legal or moral remedy to compensate for the damage done.

It is with great regret that the submissions needs to be made to the effect that sporting governing bodies cannot be trusted to govern international athletics. Allowing them to do so would be like allowing the wolf to guard the sheep.'

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