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PRESS RELEASE: Tackling Doping in Sport 2017, 8 March 2017

Tackling Doping in Sport 2017 - this year held at the Hilton Wembley overlooking the Stadium - welcomed over 320 delegates from over 45 countries and across the sporting disciplines, who were witness to poignant discussions of very topical issues concerning the state of anti-doping in sport. The issues discussed on Day One of the conference included how to regain confidence in the global anti-doping system, Therapeutic Use Exemptions, whistleblowing, athletes’ appeals against doping related Court of Arbitration for Sport (‘CAS’) awards, a review of the International Paralympic Committee’s (‘IPC’) decision to suspend Russia, and sports governance. 

Highlights from Day One:

The first keynote session was delivered by Olivier Niggli, Director General of the World Anti-Doping Agency (‘WADA’) in which he began by stating that anti-doping is at a pivotal time and that clean sport is looking for a way forward. Since the publication of the Pound and McLaren reports, Olivier said that WADA had “shifted from reaction to action” and that the anti-doping community is now mobilised to make the system better and more independent. Olivier then discussed the recommendations being implemented by WADA that he believes represent a “step change in the fight against doping” and which have the backing of athletes, which include a new whistleblower programme which will be launched by WADA in the coming days. The biggest priority for WADA in 2017 is compliance, explained Olivier, and more specifically ensuring that all signatories have policies that are in line with the Code. Olivier also stressed that work is ongoing at WADA in regards to the need for a sanctions system to support non-compliance by sports organisations that was endorsed by the Foundation Board in November 2016 and which aims to deter organisations from straying into non-compliance. WADA is also focused on studying ways to strengthen its governance structure, explained Olivier, and a working group has been set up to review the laboratory accreditation process. In addition to this WADA is also currently working on the re-compliance of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (‘RUSADA’), and a full and detailed roadmap has been agreed with RUSADA, which means that “the ball is now in their court.” Olivier added that it is encouraging to see Putin publically acknowledge the doping problem last week, which indicates that the mindset is going in the right direction. Olivier concluded his speech by stating that there will be a world conference in 2019 in which progress will be reviewed and the Code updated following a consultation process that will take place soon. “I am confident that together we will build on 2016 and become better,” finished Olivier.

A panel discussion then took place on how to establish confidence in the global anti-doping system; this involved Olivier Niggli, Nicole Sapstead, CEO of UK Anti-Doping, Sir Philip Craven MBE, President of the IPC and Adam Pengilly, Member of the International Olympic Committee and the WADA Athlete Committee, with questions posed by conference chair Owen Gibson, Head of Sport at The Guardian. 

Owen began by stating that confidence in anti-doping has never been lower due to the headlines over the past year and asked what can be done to establish confidence in the system in light of this. Adam responded first by stressing that the focus must be on moving forward and that to establish confidence in the system more cheats need to be caught and sanctioned properly. Sir Philip added that there are only a small number of people that are determined to win at all costs and that sport must unite to repel this threat, stressing the importance of getting back to the passion for sport. Sir Philip added that WADA is doing a good job and that we can fix the issues together. Nicole responded by explaining that not all National Anti-Doping Agencies are in the same place and as such we need to identify those that need help and put the investment where it is needed most in order for us to move forward collectively. 

In answer to a question relating to the possible conflicts presented by the need to both promote and regulate sport facing such organisations, Adam stated that athletes have been officially asking for a sanctions structure to be brought in for non-compliance by organisations since 2014 and that such a framework will need a lot of consultation before it is put into place, which needs to be done as quickly as possible. Adam also went on to say that institutional and personal conflicts of interest need to be better managed and reformed, and that on the whole “changes are a bit glacial” and need to be carried out much faster. 

When asked how much more funding WADA needs, Olivier stated that WADA is currently working on a proposed budget that would enable WADA to do what is expected and that a refined set of numbers should be ready in September. 

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Attendees were then witness to a presentation from Dr Michael Turner, Medical Director at The International Concussion and Head Injury Research Foundation, and comments from Saskia Clark MBE, Olympic Gold Medalist, Team GB Sailing, who shed light on Therapeutic Use Exemptions (‘TUEs’), which has become a controversial topic since the Fancy Bears hack of WADA’s ADAMS database. Michael began his presentation by stating a disclaimer that none of the opinions he was about to share were endorsed by WADA and that they were entirely personal. Michael provided insight into the workings of the TUE Expert Group within WADA, which ensures that the International Standard for TUEs is maintained and revised as needed, whilst acknowledging the general perception fueled by the Fancy Bears hack that TUEs are a way of cheating. Michael commented that he thinks this perception is really sad and that there is an illusion that WADA controls the TUE system throughout the world, which is not possible. WADA, according to Michael, can only review those TUEs uploaded to the ADAMs database, which Michael estimated to be only about 10 - 20% of the TUEs issued. Michael presented a range of slides on those countries and International Federations not using ADAMS, some of which have their own TUE system in place. Michael explained that only around 20% of Olympic countries use ADAMS and that in addition to this once a country decides that it will begin using WADA’s database it uploads all of its TUEs issued in the past ten years at once, which enormously distorts the data. Michael again stressed that given such a context there is no way that WADA can police the TUE system globally and that in addition to this the issuance of a TUE will be impacted by changing prescribing habits over time and the individual prescribing habits of different countries. 

Saskia then shared her personal experiences of being issued a TUE and how TUEs are important to ensure that everyone can participate in sport. She explained that she would not have succeeded within her sport if she had not been granted a TUE and that on the whole she believes that athletes are naïve in general about TUEs. 

When asked a question from the floor about how confident WADA is in the security of its IT systems following the Fancy Bears hack of the ADAMS system, Michael responded by stressing that the security of WADA’s systems is extremely good and that a separate portal was created for the Olympics, which was ring-fenced. The attack by Fancy Bears occurred due to a phishing exercise but only allowed the hackers entry into the ring-fenced area of the system and not the mainframe. Michael insisted that WADA is absolutely confident in its systems as the mainframe was not breached but obviously the Fancy Bears hack has undermined the credibility of the system. 

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A further highlight of Day One was the final session of the day: the sports governance workshop, in which Alexander McLin, Executive Director of the Swiss Arbitration Association, Maria Clarke, Principal at Maria Clarke Lawyers, New Zealand, and Chair of the IAAF Working Group on Governance and Integrity Reform and Louise Reilly, Barrister at The Bar of Ireland, discussed sports governance and specifically the reforms being made.

Alex shared the experiences of the work being carried out by the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (‘ASOIF’) Governance Task Force, which included a detailed overview of the guiding principles established, the key governance principles and the assessment of such principles in order to establish a baseline against which future performance can be measured. Alex then focused on possible governance indicators for anti-doping and stressed that such an approach could be taken to assessing the fight against doping. 

Maria then provided delegates with a detailed understanding of the whys and hows of the IAAF’s governance reforms. Maria began by explaining the context surrounding the IAAF’s reforms, which were instigated by a number of high profile issues facing the Federation involving serious allegations of doping and corruption. Maria added that despite the IAAF’s strong anti-doping ethos the entire organisation had been undermined by a small number of people. “The shortcomings were significant,” explained Maria; these included the leadership being able to influence the system unchecked, a culture which saw individuals powerless to question information provided, the unchecked powers of the president, the risk of political interference in decision making, a lack of athlete voices at the top level and a complete lack of transparency. “The walls were too high and the power was held by too few,” added Maria, but this crisis spurred reform and an intense nine-month reform process that aims to ensure that the IAAF never faces such issues again. Maria explained that the governance reforms did not happen in isolation but occurred alongside comprehensive organisational reviews, and that the governance reforms in particular led to constitutional changes within the IAAF. The need for a strong governance programme within the Federation was essential, which would involve wider participation and influence, the separation of politics and power, independent controls and monitoring, transparency and accountability, or in Maria’s words, “the ingredients of good governance.” What the IAAF did following this nine-month reform process was boiled down into seven key areas by Maria - who added that there is a more extensive report available on the IAAF’s website - with those areas being 1) clear responsibilities and roles, structures and process, 2) a mixture of appointed and elected officials, 3) a review of the commissions and committees, 4) the need to have equality in the governance to reflect the equality of participants in the sport, 5) integrity checks, which includes an integrity code of conduct, 6) a new integrity unit, and 7) a new independent disciplinary tribunal. Maria concluded by stating that the IAAF is now in implementation mode. 

Louise Reilly then provided insight into the UK’s new Code for Sports Governance that has been drawn up by UK Sport and Sports England to help ensure that the highest levels of transparency, ethical standards and leadership are present across sport in this country and which sets high expectations for any sports organisation seeking public funding. Louise provided details on the five core principles that form the “spirit” of the Code and discussed the difficulties in creating a governance model that works for all sports organisations, large and small. Louise then commented that the tiered approach taken in the Code is a good way to tackle those differences to ensure that the Code works for different bodies, but that obviously how the Code will work in practice is as yet unknown. UK Sport and Sport England have confirmed that they will issue further guidance on the Code and how it will be implemented. 

Following the individual presentations, the panelists were then asked questions by Owen Gibson, whose first question centred on how you can change the culture within an organisation. Maria responded that cultural change is all about doing it in practice. Alex agreed and added that doing things publically was also important to changing the culture as it raises the bar and public expectations so that the organisation is held to a higher standard. 

* A full account of both Day One and Day Two of the conference will be issued early next week.

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Tackling Doping in Sport is an annual conference organised by World Sports Advocate (formerly World Sports Law Report) - a monthly publication dedicated to providing expert analysis on the evolving legal and regulatory landscape for sport. 

March’s issue of World Sports Advocate features a special article written specifically for the conference by Richard Pound, in which he shares his personal opinion on the state of anti-doping and what he believes is lacking in that fight. If you would like a complimentary copy of March’s issue or are interested in subscribing to World Sports Advocate please contact Conor Molloy on +44 (0) 2070121387 or email conor.molloy@cecileparkmedia.com




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