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Doping - WADA governance group recommends independent president

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(Reuters) – With angry athletes demanding an overhaul of the World Anti-Doping Agency following the decision to reinstate Russia’s anti-doping authority (RUSADA,) a governance working group has made several recommendations, including the introduction of an independent president.

The WADA governance group, comprising representatives of athletes, National Anti-Doping Organisations (NADOs) and independent experts, was formed last year to study the running of the agency, which has faced increasing criticism after the lifting of the Russia ban

Tempers flared last month when WADA, against the wishes of many athletes groups and anti-doping campaigners, voted to reinstate RUSADA without the agency having met all the criteria laid out in a Roadmap to Compliance.

RUSADA was suspended in November 2015 after an independent WADA report, carried out by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren, outlined evidence of state-backed, systematic doping and cover-ups in Russian sport.

Athletes and NADOs such as the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) have argued WADA’s links to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which pays half of the agency’s funding and makes up half its membership, represent a clear conflict of interest and have sought greater independence and transparency.

In recommendations published on Wednesday, the Working Group said WADA should move to an independent president and vice-president with no links to the sports movement or governments.

Currently the WADA presidency rotates between a representative from the Olympic movement and a government official. Presidents can serve a maximum of two three-year terms.

“The entire process of governance review has been comprehensive and has clearly shown WADA’s willingness to adapt and that it wants to ensure it has the right processes in place,” said Dr. Ulrich Haas, the independent chair of the Working Group, in a statement.

“A common theme throughout this process has been that greater independence on WADA’s executive committee would be a desirable outcome and would serve the agency well in the future.

“Part of the reason WADA was set up nearly 20 years ago was to provide consistency and standardisation in anti-doping policies and regulations within sports organisations and governments around the globe.

“In an ever-changing world, its role has grown and evolved since then so it is right that the governance structure should develop as well.”

Other recommendations included a limit of three, three-year terms for all members of the Foundation Board, Executive Committee and Standing Committees.

Currently there are no term limits.

The group also recommended the formation of an independent Ethics Board and the addition of two independent seats – with full voting rights – to the Executive Committee.

Nominations for these positions could be proposed by the sports movement and the governments but the candidates should have no link to either group.

The Governance Group will present its recommendations to WADA’s Foundation Board at meetings in Baku, Azerbaijan, on Nov. 15.

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto, editing by Clare Lovell)

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