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Sir Craig Reedie | ‘If you’re talking about having a problem, you started with the biggest country in the world’

  • Independent Testing Unit will attempt to address conflicts of interest in doping control
  • Wada has established six-person investigation panel
  • Compliance review will seek to benchmark anti-doping delivery 

Sir Craig Reedie, it transpires, has different telephones to conduct different parts of his affairs these days.

Following his organisation’s brush with the reportedly state-backed Fancy Bears cyber hacking team late last year, the Wada president clearly understands the need to be careful as powerful forces seek to discredit the work of the anti-doping body.

The communications set up and a renewed focus on cyber security are just small examples of the transformative effects that last year’s Russian doping scandal has had on the organisation and its leader.

Having seen Wada come in for sustained criticism, and endured a large degree of flak himself over the handling of the affair, Reedie is eager to put his side of the story on the record and wants to talk about the reforms the organisation has undertaken since the scandal emerged. He is also at pains to remind people just how unprecedented was the crisis that Wada and the sports movement faced last year.

“If you’re talking about having a real problem, an investigation with a big country, you started with the biggest country in the world,” he says with typically deadpan delivery.

The Wada president is speaking to SportBusiness International shortly after the IOC Executive Board approved Wada plans for an Independent Testing Authority (ITA) to take over all aspects of doping control at major events.

The creation of the ITA is an attempt to provide a solution to the age-old accusations of a conflict of interest between those that police and promote sport.

Although the body is a long way from standing on its own feet, it has already been welcomed by USADA chief executive Travis Tygart, who described it as “the first glimmer of hope [for clean athletes] after months of pushing for reform.”

Ultimate goal

Reedie describes how it came into existence. “I was asked at an Olympics summit if Wada would look at the possibility of creating this independent testing agency and off we went to look at it,” he says. “What will happen is we will create with the IOC their new independent testing agency and it will be up to the international federations to decide whether they want to do this kind of thing themselves or whether they want to join into the new independent agency.”

The plan is that the independent body will act as a ‘service provider’ and stakeholders such as international federations and major event organisers would use the ITA on a pay-per-use basis.

Although the IOC is providing the seed money, Reedie says the ultimate goal is for the body to fund itself and take over the overall doping operation at the summer and winter Olympics. To help it on its way, the ITA will absorb the structures of GAISF’s Doping-Free Sports Unit, which already has trained testers and procedures in place.

“There is a desire – and you can see that from the existing arrangements in cycling and athletics, for example, who have removed the whole doping effort from the international federation, which is designed to promote the sport – to create a separate organisation which in this sense polices the sport,” says Reedie.

IMAGE: Reedie with IOC president Thomas Bach (Getty Images)

“The independent testing agency, from a doping point of view, is the IOC’s answer to that, as they see a clear conflict of interest.

“We will create the board for them and then we will effectively pass it over to them and they can run it. That board will run it and it will be independent. It will have independent members or an independent chairman and it will be financed initially by the IOC.”

The word “initially” and the independence of the body are important in that sentence, particularly after the IAAF scandal showed how organisations that were supposed to be policing sport were actually colluding with doping offenders to cover up positive tests.

It’s a significant step in the fight against doping, but there are still questions about the role of Wada in the post-Rio world and about how the organisation handled itself during the Russia crisis.

At no stage does Reedie really deny that his organisation was ill-equipped, both from a legal and financial perspective, to deal with the problem of state-sponsored doping when it reared its head last year.

When the allegations that Wada knew about the situation in Russia as far back as 2010 and was slow to act upon them are put to him again, Reedie returns to his defence at the time of the crisis that the organisation simply didn’t have enough evidence to act on.

“Our involvement with one whistle-blower in 2010 consisted of one phone call and one email – that’s all. And on that basis, I’m sorry, you cannot resolve any problems,” he says.

Legal authority

At the time, he adds, the legal framework of the agency meant it was only able to collect information and pass it on to those who did have the power to investigate, which in this case was the Russian authorities that were under such suspicion.

“We did not have legal authority to investigate. That didn’t come until the new [Wada] code, which came into effect on January 1, 2015, which was the day that the Pound Commission started work,” he says.

“And in [those] days all you would have been able to do would have been to take it back to the authorities in Russia, which wouldn’t have made any sense at all.”

When the second wave of investigations by CBS’s 60 Minutes programme and the New York Times seemed to indicate that the problem in Russia went beyond track and field to cover winter sports and many others, he argues that the greatest challenge for Wada lay, again, in gathering enough evidence quickly enough.

That this in turn backed the IOC into a corner, leaving the organisation with just three weeks to deal with the problem before the start of the Rio Olympics, was unavoidable, he suggests.

“The principle whistle-blower on this occasion was Gregory Rodchenko, who was the director of the Moscow laboratory,” he says. “We were keen to remove him when we removed the accreditation of the Moscow laboratory following the first enquiry into track and field. He was the source of all the information.

“Getting access to him was going to be probably quite complicated. He made it quite clear that he wanted to speak to an independent person – he didn’t want to speak to somebody from Wada or somebody from the IOC.

“We asked Richard McLaren, who was with Dick Pound in his previous inquiry, so at least he had some basic knowledge of what’s been happening and he produced, as quickly as he could, enough evidence to indicate that there was almost certainly truth in what Rodchenko then said. Unfortunately, we only got that three weeks before an Olympic Games.”

Given that both of Wada’s enquiries were commissioned in response to media reports, it is difficult for the organisation to shake off the perception that it was reactive rather than pro-active in dealing with suspicions about Russia.

In response, Reedie turns to the issue of funding and argues that the crisis has at least been turned to Wada’s advantage in giving it more resources.

“One of the effects on Wada of the whole procedure has been that we have established our own investigations department and we have gone from one person to six, led by the investigator who was the third of three men on the Pound report,” he says.

“We have had to resource that and we are resourcing it because clearly it’s much better that we do these things in-house than have to respond to very serious media allegations.”

Resourcing is, of course, a vexed issue for the organisation. Although there is absolutely no suggestion that Wada has ever covered up doping offences, the fact that it is 50-per-cent funded by the Olympic Movement and that Reedie is a former vice-president of the IOC left it vulnerable to accusations of a conflict of interest during the crisis.

Reedie has said previously that the conflict of interest argument against him ceased when he gave up his vice-presidency of the IOC and that he always had to sit out debates when the Russian issue was up for discussion while he still held the role. The funding issue is even more complicated, because the IOC is a much more reliable source of income than debt-ridden Western governments.

“The argument in many Western countries was ‘we’re not going to give you, as an international organisation, more money’,” he says. “I used to have to fight tooth-and-nail to get an increase of one per cent on people’s contributions.”

Although Reedie is heartened that last year’s crisis has elicited a five-per-cent increase in government support in the latest round of funding, he sees scant opportunity to grow Wada’s revenues beyond the IOC contributions.

He says that a statement that he made last year calling for sponsors and broadcasters to do more to fund the organisation was an attempt to highlight the body’s lack of resources rather than an entirely serious proposal.

“I was trying to draw attention to the fact that if you want us to do an awful lot more, which has come out of the commissions of inquiry that we’ve had, then you have to give us a lot more money,” he says.

When Reedie is asked how Wada might respond to a similar crisis today, he explains that a draft legal framework is out for consultation that would allow it to deal with national doping bodies or federations that were behaving in a way that made them non-compliant.

Encourage compliance

For those who might have thought that Wada already had these powers, Reedie explains the distinction is that the organisation is moving from a position where it concentrates entirely in getting bodies to be ‘rule-compliant’ with the anti-doping code to one where everyone is ‘delivery-compliant’.

“We want to encourage compliance in standards of operations as opposed to simply breaches in rules, which has been the situation to date,” he says.

IMAGE: Reedie presents golfer Justin Rose with his gold medal at Rio 2016 (Getty Images)

“Suddenly, you’re looking at what will be an international standard as an addendum to the World Anti-Doping Code. So that standard will become part of everybody’s rules, not just the Wada rules. If you’re a stakeholder and you sign up to abide by the World Anti-Doping Code, which everybody does, then these compliance rules become part of it.”

To this end, it has sent out a total of 307 questionnaires to its stakeholders, of which 93 per cent have been returned.

“All 103 international federations have returned theirs and there are 22 countries which are outstanding at the moment. We expect to get 20 of them by September 1 and the rest by the middle of September,” Reedie says. “So that will give us a very clear picture of who is doing it properly and who is not. That’s a formidable piece of work and really an essential piece of work before you start a compliance review, because then you’ve got benchmarks.”

Blanket ban

But he stresses that Wada is not in the business of playing policeman. Further down the line, he would like to see the ultimate sanction for non-compliance – that a country or federation could not take part in competition – decided by an independent body. For the record, he says it is important to clarify that Wada never called for a blanket ban on Russian competitors at the Rio Games.

“Entries to an Olympic Games are made by national Olympic committees,” he says. “This is why the Wada executive committee, in a telephone conference, decided to make the recommendation to decline entries. At no time did we call for a blanket ban.

“Wada does not have the powers to determine entry to competitions. We tried to restrict our comments to the existing entry system.”

As the IAAF prepares to hold a World Athletics Championships without Russia this month, Reedie is confident that progress is being made to get the country back into the fold. At the end of June Wada announced that the Russian Anti-Doping Agency is now permitted to plan and co-ordinate testing, a development that has been hailed as a key milestone towards regaining full compliance.

“They have trained their own doping control officers and that was a real need, because when they were suspended, quite rightly, at the back end of 2015, any testing programme would have needed to have outside supervision,” says Reedie. “It was done by UK Anti-Doping and the problem we had is there simply isn’t enough capacity to do enough testing in a country the size of Russia.

Redress the balance 

“Now that we’ve trained our own people to do it in Russia, then that means testing can be much fuller. Many more tests [will be] done and properly handled. We were happy with our help to them and the changes they made themselves. This was a good thing to do and it’s been warmly welcomed in Russia.”

Reedie adds that the right noises are coming out of the political establishment – aside from the occasional piece of posturing.

“In Russia there are a number of people, including their president, who have admitted that they’ve had problems and they want to solve them,” he says. “There’s a whole range of things, including education, all of which have now been codified. And all of that is good news.”

The Wada chief admits that it will take longer to establish complete trust and that supervisors will remain in Russia for a long period after Rusada becomes compliant.

On the trust issue, he is concerned about the findings of a recent UK survey in which a third of those surveyed said their confidence in sport had declined over the last year. He hopes that the reforms Wada have made can start to redress the balance.

“I don’t think it’s difficult to say that a little bit of good comes out of everything,” he says. “I hope that we can put our house in order in such a way that people will give credit for efforts to recover from the situation, rather than automatically assume that everything is bad and will continue to be bad.

“It’s now up to the world anti-doping agencies, it’s up to the national anti-doping organisations, it’s up to the sports to get their act together –  whether this is ITAs, whether this is integrity units, whether this is better compliance, whether this is better science. All of this we have to do properly and regain people’s confidence.”

Extra – CV

Sir Craig Reedie, president, Wada

Sir Craig Reedie has enjoyed a long career in sports administration. A former president of the Scottish Badminton Union and the International Badminton Federation, he was responsible for the admission of his sport to the Olympic programme in 1985.

In 1992 he became chairman of the British Olympic Association and led the organisation through the Olympic Games of Atlanta, Sydney and Athens and the Olympic winter Games of Lillehammer, Nagano and Salt Lake City.

He was a leading member of the London 2012 bid team which won the right to host the Olympic Games in London and was a non-executive director of the London Organising Committee.

He became a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1994 and has served on many different IOC commissions, including the evaluation commissions of 2001 and 2009, the co-ordination commissions for the Games in Athens and Beijing, the marketing commission, the programme commission and the ethics commission.

He was elected as a member of the IOC Executive Board in October 2009 and as a vice-president from July 2012 until 2016. He was chair of the IOC Evaluation Commission for the 2020 Olympic Games.

Formerly chairman of the finance and administration committee and a member of the executive committee and foundation board of Wada, he was elected the organisation’s president in November 2013.

Educated at Stirling High School and Glasgow University, he has also held other sports appointments, including membership and deputy chairmanship of UK Sport.

For many years he was senior partner in the Glasgow firm of financial advisers, D.L. Bloomer & Partners.

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