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WADA Official Calls for Independent Audit of Response to Russian Doping Crisis

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Russian athletes were made to compete under the Olympic flag as Olympic Athletes from Russia. Photo: AP, Michael Sohn

By Nick Butler |

World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) vice-president Linda Helleland has called on the organization to appoint an individual or body with no link to sport to carry out a detailed audit of the Russian doping crisis.

This call is the centrepiece of a proposal, obtained by insidethegames, she plans to present at the WADA Executive Committee and Foundation Board meetings in Montreal on May 16 and 17.

She claims the “fractured and confusing” response of the anti-doping system to the Russian crisis has shaken public confidence that WADA and other sporting bodies are “ready, willing and able” to protect clean athletes against doping.

This perception must be rapidly changed, the Norwegian Minister of Children and Equality argues, if they expect public authorities to “commit to significant increases in their annual financial contributions to WADA”.

The recent opening of a multi-national criminal police investigation into the leadership of the International Biathlon Union (IBU) is likely to have convinced Helleland of the importance of her crusade.

Anders Besseberg and Nicole Resch, the respective IBU President and secretary general, are accused of ignoring suspicious evidence indicative of doping in any investigation also reportedly looking into alleged financial irregularities.

Besseburg, who denies wrongdoing, is a member of the WADA Foundation Board and a supposed advocate of clean sport.

Helleland, thought to be positioning herself as the next President of WADA when Sir Craig Reedie reaches the end of his term next year, focuses on whether “mechanisms” have been put in place to address weaknesses in the anti-doping system.

These, she said, cover not just the role of WADA but also “other relevant bodies” such as UNESCO and the Council of Europe.

Specific areas include “facts” and why it has been so hard to secure universal acceptance of them despite the “clean findings of several independent commissions”.

A call is also made to analyse conflicts of interest in the anti-doping process as well as ensuring the system is capable of responding rapidly to new crises.

“In particular, if a similar crisis were to arise shortly before a major games or championship, are there now effective mechanisms in place to preserve public confidence by excluding from competition pending final determination of the facts any athletes coming from the apparently corrupted system?” Helleland asks.

“What support would be required for this from the anti-doping community and what needs to be done to ensure that support is forthcoming?”

Another element concerns “consequences” and assessing ways to prevent the “confusion caused by different bodies responding differently to the same reports”.

This particularly relates to the consistency with which sporting bodies respond to doping cases and with the sanctions they impose on the country concerned.

Dispute resolution is a final point raised alongside the question of why the Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned International Olympic Committee sanctions against 28 of 39 Russian athletes accused of doping at Sochi 2014.

Full explanations for these decisions were due in February but have been subject to repeated delays, with “mid-April” given as the latest deadline.

“We don’t know yet as the decisions with full reasoning have not been published (a delay that is itself very unhelpful),” Helleland writes in the document to be presented to the WADA Executive Committee and Foundation Board.

“Are the criticisms of the CAS fair?

“Does it need to be strengthened in any way?

“Do its processes and procedures for dealing with urgent cases need to be reviewed?”

These proposals are likely to antagonize senior colleagues in WADA, as well as other key stakeholders.

Helleland was criticized for a similarly strong statement during last month’s WADA Symposium in Lausanne and has been accused of misjudging the mood and using sporting issues for her own personal political gain.

The IOC are already looking for an alternative candidate, which must come from public authorities, to position for WADA President to prevent Helleland assuming the position.

Some believe they are also hoping to transfer anti-doping power to the new International Testing Agency – formerly the Independent Testing Authority – as a means to sidetrack WADA.

Helleland, though, has so far shown no sign of backing-down and the latest proposal is a further sign of her intent.

Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz

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