By Steve Keating
MONTREAL (Reuters) – Canadian Olympic gold medallist Beckie Scott faced some harsh words but was not bullied during a heated World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) meeting, an independent report concluded on Wednesday.
WADA released a 58-page report along with an audio recording of last year’s contentious executive board meeting when Scott, chair of the body’s Athletes committee, alleged she was harassed for objecting to Russia’s reinstatement after a doping ban.
The report revealed it was International Olympic Committee (IOC) and WADA executive board members Francesco Ricci Bitti and Patrick Baumann who Scott claimed bullied her.
While the investigation described their exchange as “disrespectful”, it determined their actions did not reach the level of harassment.
It was also noted that the events that sparked the outburst were not triggered by Scott’s objection to Russia’s reinstatement but comments directed at the IOC’s Athletes commission during her own WADA Athletes commission report.
During the investigation by the law firm Covington and Burling LLP over a 1,000 documents were reviewed and 32 witnesses interviewed, including 29 who attended the meeting in the Seychelles, of which 10 were women.
“Our report concludes that no one at the September 20 executive committee meeting bullied or harassed Ms. Scott regarding her objection to the conditional reinstatement of RUSADA, or even responded directly to it,” read the report.
“The exchange between Ms. Scott and Messrs. Francesco Ricci Bitti and Patrick Baumann took place after Ms. Scott had presented the Athlete committee report, in which she criticised the IOC’s Athlete commission a member of which was at the table.
“While Ricci Bitti’s response to that report reasonably could be viewed as aggressive or disrespectful, his behaviour did not rise to the level of bullying or harassment.”
The investigation conducted by the law firm Covington and Burling LLP, which has done other work for WADA, raising concerns of a conflict of interest.
The WADA the executive committee, however, said it was satisfied that the investigation was conducted independently and in accordance with international best practices.
Neither Scott nor her legal representatives were immediately available for comment.
Scott, Canada’s most decorated cross-country skier, told the BBC last November that she was “treated with disrespect” and faced “inappropriate” comments and gestures for opposing the reinstatement of Russia’s anti-doping organization.
The report, however, said to the extent there were tense exchanges they had nothing to do with that decision.
The notion that the angry response was triggered by Scott’s stance on Russia could not be substantiated.
Covington and Burling LLP said they approached Scott eight times about participating in the inquiry but she refused unless conditions were met, including a demand her lawyer be able to cross-examine witnesses during the course of their interviews.
(Editing by Nick Mulvenney)