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WADA Granted Immunity from Lawsuits to Boost Doping Investigations

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A woman walks into the head office for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in Montreal, Quebec, Canada on November 9, 2015. Photo: REUTERS/Christinne Muschi/File Photo

By Nick Butler |

A bill granting civil jurisdiction immunity to decisions made by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) should grant them more power to pursue drug cheats without legal obstructions.

Private members bill 238, which was unanimously passed by the National Assembly of Quebec, is seeking to stop lawsuits designed to impede doping cases and stop or slow down investigations against athletes or organizations.

It should help to defend WADA – which has its headquarters in Montreal – when it is targeted by third parties who want to “disrupt or intimidate it from carrying out its mission.”

All officials of the drug testing body, including directors, officers and employees, will have immunity from civil jurisdiction only with regard to any decision – and resulting activity – made in connection with its mission to fight doping in sport internationally.

A statement afterwards described the move as an attempt to safeguard their activities and legally protect the organisation in their mission to lead a “collaborative worldwide movement for doping-free sport.”

“In recent years, WADA has carried out, and continues to carry out, complex and often high-profile investigations while also running a very active whistleblower program (Speak Up!),” it added.

“With this, the Agency has been required to deal with a number of expensive and time-consuming legal challenges.

“Attempts to derail investigations through civil cases affect WADA’s capacity to lead the fight against doping in sport and to protect the rights of clean athletes.”

Property and information needed to achieve this mission will also be exempt from seizure in a move that, it is hoped, may encourage more whistleblowers to come forward.

This could include sensitive information and items related to audits, national and international investigations and whistleblowers as well as scientific and pharmaceutical research – all of which can be crucial in launching and successfully prosecuting cases against individuals and organizations.

“The passing of this bill is good news for clean sport,” added WADA director general Olivier Niggli, who addressed the Assembly before the bill was passed.

“As the global regulatory body, we are not in the business of making friends with those who deliberately break the rules under the World Anti-Doping Code.

“However, increasingly, WADA is facing costly civil lawsuits brought by individuals and organizations whose questionable activities we have brought to light.

“With the added protection that the Bill provides, we will be able to keep these threats from turning into costly and potentially damaging distractions from our core activities.

“While it is important to protect WADA’s capacity to fulfill its role as the global anti-doping regulator, it must be noted that it is not the objective of the Bill to exempt WADA or its employees from being investigated or facing criminal prosecution.

“Nor does this Bill compromise the right to appeal WADA decisions to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in the appropriate way.”

Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz

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