On Thursday, November 25, Dr. Rahul Gupta, Director of National Drug Control Policy, participated in the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Foundation Board meeting in Paris, where notable WADA governance reforms were negotiated and adopted. The United States, in close collaboration with partner governments, pushed successfully for WADA to strengthen its standards on ethics, conflict of interest and transparency in order to improve its governance and enhance its efforts to create a level playing field for all elite athletes. The reforms include:
- Reformulating the WADA Athletes’ Committee into a larger, more representative body, now renamed the Athletes’ Council (AC).
- Adding two more independent members to WADA’s Executive Committee, including the Chair of the AC, to ensure that no single stakeholder group can dominate their decision making.
- Adding two more athletes and two national anti-doping organizations to the Foundation Board to increase the depth of expertise of this body charged with strategic decision making within WADA.
- Establishing a new ethics code and board to ensure that nominees to key WADA bodies do not have a conflict of interest before taking up their position and that ethics complaints can be effectively addressed.
At the WADA Foundation Board meeting, Dr. Gupta expressed appreciation for the positive steps taken by WADA, while noting work remains to fully reform WADA’s governance, including the details and monitoring plan for the recently enacted reforms. These engagements reflect the Biden-Harris Administration’s firm commitment to addressing the serious WADA governance issues highlighted in the May 2021 ONDCP report to Congress.
Dr. Gupta stated in his remarks during the Foundation Board meeting: “The United States intends to continue to partner in good faith with other Olympic authorities, the Olympic Movement, athletes, corporate Olympic sponsors – many of whom are U.S. based – and with national anti-doping agencies to further strengthen anti-doping efforts.” He further stated, “We will leave no stone unturned to support clean sport. We owe that much to our athletes who sacrifice so much in order to compete at an elite level on the global stage.”
Earlier in the week, before these decisions were taken, Dr. Gupta met privately with WADA President Witold Banka and Director General Olivier Niggli to discuss a range of anti-doping issues. He also met separately with three senior International Olympic Committee (IOC) Members, all of whom serve on both the WADA Executive Committee and Foundation Board. This latter meeting included the Chair of the IOC Athlete’s Commission.
In both of these private meetings Dr. Gupta shared the United States’ concerns over WADA governance with regard to independence, transparency, and conflicts of interests. Dr. Gupta also explained that he would be engaging with Western Hemisphere partners to discuss the adoption of a fairer rotation of WADA Foundation Board and Executive Committee seats within the Americas to ensure the United States can robustly contribute to WADA’s mission and governance in a manner commensurate with its role as the largest sporting nation in the Western Hemisphere.
Dr. Gupta said that upon his return to Washington, he would determine if ONDCP will provide the remainder of U.S. dues to WADA. Earlier this year, ONDCP provided only half of its dues payment pending ongoing governance reform at WADA. Even this partial payment makes the United States the single largest governmental funder of WADA.