WADA approves reforms; athlete groups say they’re not enough

National Sports

The World Anti-Doping Agency approved a series of reforms designed to give athletes a bigger voice in decision-making, though the changes were roundly criticized by activist groups that said they didn’t go far enough.

At its board meeting Thursday, WADA announced it was adding two seats to its executive committee, one of which will go to an athlete representative. It approved creation of an independent ethics board and reformed the athletes council to give a wider group of athletes a say in appointing its 20 members.

WADA also approved a pilot athlete ombudsman program, which is supposed to provide independent advice for athletes in dealing with doping issues.

A number of athlete groups put out statements deriding the changes as little more than cosmetic. One major complaint is that the key decision-making bodies are still populated with members of the International Olympic Committee, which accounts for half of WADA’s funding. World governments supply the other half.

“WADA should neither be controlled nor governed by anyone who has a stake in the economics of sport competition if they are to be considered legitimate,” said a statement drafted on behalf of four separate athletes groups, including Global Athlete.

WADA’s independence has come under scrutiny over the past decade, during which a doping scandal in Russia roiled the anti-doping movement and led critics to wonder if the global regulator was going too easy on Russia at the behest of the IOC.

Another group, World Players, put out a detailed spreadsheet that compared WADA’s reforms to what the group has been proposing. Among the criticisms is that many of the athletes in decision-making positions arrive there because of their relationship with the IOC and other entities in the sports movement.

“These athletes have legal duties and obligations to the sport movement which may not be in the best interest of athletes,” the analysis said.

WADA said there are more changes to come. President Witold Bańka said the actions completed Thursday “will have a far-reaching and meaningful impact on how the agency is governed, with more independent voices around the table and increased representation for athletes and national anti-doping organizations.”

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