On behalf of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), we wish you all a very healthy, happy, and peaceful New Year; and hope that, like us, you are beginning 2024 with optimism and energy.
Before we forge ahead, we would like to take a moment to thank you all—our partners in clean sport—for your ongoing support and dedication, and to highlight some of the achievements that we delivered together in 2023, articulated around WADA’s Strategic Priorities that feature in bold below.
To further strengthen our ability to lead, we completed the second round of governance reforms that was initiated in 2021. Among other things, the reforms have led to greater independence and enhanced representation for athletes and National Anti-Doping Organizations (NADOs) within WADA. This has been achieved through a new Athlete Council, which promotes the voices of athletes on anti-doping matters and serves as the avenue for athletes to assume positions on WADA’s Foundation Board (Board), Executive Committee (ExCo), and Committees. It has also been achieved through a new NADO Expert Advisory Group (EAG), which is responsible for representing the views of NADOs and bringing them forward to WADA's governing bodies, reviewing anti-doping matters impacting NADOs, and providing relevant guidance and recommendations to WADA to enhance collaboration with and development of NADOs globally.
To continue leading in the science realm, we invested in innovative research projects and overhauled our scientific research grants system. These grants are critical because they increase the volume of research dedicated to developing new and improved detection methods. We also further integrated the Athlete Biological Passport into the Agency’s Anti-Doping Administration Management System (ADAMS); and, increased the future capacity for ADAMS development by 25% via a new global partnership with technology transformation leader Sword Group. This latest partnership is a result of our efforts to seek private financial partners that will enable us to go further than we currently can. We are confident that more partnerships will be signed this year.
In addition to the Athlete Council mentioned above, to further support our commitment to be athlete centered, we launched the Athletes’ Anti-Doping Ombuds Program. In March, Ms. Anna Thorstenson became the inaugural Athletes’ Anti-Doping Ombuds, a resource that provides athletes with cost-free, impartial, and fair advice and assistance in relation to the World Anti-Doping Code (Code) and the entities that play a role within it. Also in March, Ms. Snežana Samardžić-Marković, Senior Independent Expert, began an initial Human Rights Impact Assessment to evaluate the intersection between the World Anti-Doping Program and the human rights of athletes.
To grow impact, we leveraged our Program Development Impact Area to enhance knowledge sharing between Anti-Doping Organizations (ADOs) and empower local program delivery; and, we bolstered the intelligence and investigations (I&I) capacity of the global anti-doping system. Regarding I&I, we carried out the I&I Capacity and Capability Building Project, co-funded by the European Union. The Project has brought together representatives from 51 ADOs and 48 law enforcement agencies in Europe for education and training; and, to work collaboratively on the fight against doping in sport. We are very proud to say that this Project—which included a social media campaign to raise awareness of the use of anabolic steroids—has led to the dismantling of several illicit steroid laboratories, the seizure of significant amounts of performance enhancing substances, and to several doping athletes being caught. In fact, due to the Project’s success, we will be expanding the initiative to Asia and Oceania in 2025 and to other regions thereafter with the aim of establishing a Global Anti-Doping Intelligence and Investigations Network.
We continued to promote education as a central pillar of anti-doping programs and the single best way to prevent doping in sport. From funding social science research on doping and clean sport behaviors, to developing workforce standards via our Global Learning & Development Framework, to making resources available on WADA’s Anti-Doping Education and Learning Platform (ADEL), we are ensuring that education is being prioritized. We now look forward to the 2024 Global Education Conference in Cannes next month. This biennial event will bring practitioners and researchers together to discuss emerging trends; contribute to education program development; and, examine how ADOs can enhance their programs while keeping athletes and support personnel at the center.
In connection with our be visible priority, we held our most successful Play True Day digital campaign to date, achieving a potential social media reach of more than 161 million around the globe. The annual campaign—which is dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of preventing doping—invited athletes and the whole anti-doping community to join WADA in building the world’s biggest team playing for clean sport: #OnePlayTrueTeam.
To deliver on our priority to collaborate and unite, WADA Leadership had many bilateral and multilateral meetings with government representatives and sports leaders worldwide. These opportunities are key for us to outline WADA’s priorities; increase our understanding of anti-doping issues in different jurisdictions and organizations; and reiterate the importance of working together to protect clean sport. It’s no surprise therefore that unity was the theme of WADA’s 17th Annual Symposium in Lausanne, which convened more than 1,000 participants in a hybrid fashion to discuss ways to innovate and deliver a stronger anti-doping system for athletes worldwide.
Aside from the above, which is far from exhaustive, we continued to monitor and enforce Signatory compliance with the Code and International Standards, and, in September, we launched the first phase of the 2027 World Anti-Doping Code & International Standards Update Process. This process will culminate with the approval of these key documents during the sixth World Conference on Doping in Sport, to be held in December 2025 in Busan, Republic of Korea.
It’s amazing to think that the first World Conference took place in February 1999 and that, on 10 November of that year, WADA was formed to develop, harmonize, and coordinate anti-doping rules and policies across all sports and all countries. We invite you all to help celebrate WADA’s 25th anniversary and its contributors throughout the year—most notably via a gala that will be held during our 18th Annual Symposium in March.
We look forward to seeing many of you in Lausanne and to working alongside you all to deliver on our collaborative worldwide movement for doping-free sport as One Play True Team.