We need more Beckie Scotts: WADA must take a stand against Russia's reinstatement

The only "obstacle" to the Russian anti-doping agency's official reinstatement is WADA's executive committee, a body known to make decisions that bend under political tension and influence from the IOC sports members that wish to appease Russia.

Organization must do what's right and prioritize principles and ethics over politics

Canadian Olympian Beckie Scott resigned from WADA's compliance review committee to protest the organization's recommendation to reinstate Russia's anti-doping agency. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is scheduled to meet in the Seychelles on Thursday for what could be the most significant anti-doping meeting in its history.

Members of WADA's executive committee will be asked to vote to reinstate the Russian anti-doping agency (RUSADA), ending that organization's three-year suspension in the wake of the McLaren Report (written by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren) that exposed Russia's widespread state-sponsored doping program.

The vote will come even though RUSADA has yet to fulfil two important conditions on the roadmap toward compliance: acknowledge and accept the evidence and facts in the McLaren Report; and provide WADA with access to the thousands of samples at the Moscow Laboratory and the Moscow Laboratory information management system analytical data.

Yet, after months of making compromises and concessions on those conditions, WADA's compliance review committee (CRC) recommended last week that RUSADA be reinstated.

So now the only "obstacle" to RUSADA's official reinstatement is WADA's executive committee, a body known to make decisions that bend under political tension and influence from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) sports members that wish to appease Russia.

It is widely expected that the committee will accept the CRC's recommendation.

WADA's reputation on the line

In my view, the reinstatement of RUSADA, given the softening of the demand that Russia accept the findings of the McLaren Report, will tarnish WADA's reputation and bring sport into disrepute. In the eyes and minds of many athletes, such an outcome proves one thing: appeasing a handful of sports politicians overrides the rights of millions of clean athletes and the principles and ethics in sport.

Before the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, the IOC chose to ignore the evidence in the McLaren Report and WADA's recommendation to ban Russia and allowed Russian athletes to compete.

That decision was even more questionable in light of the decisions made by my governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), and the International Paralympic Committee, to ban the Russian Athletic Federation (RUSAF) and Russian Paralympic Committee, respectively.

At the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic Games, the IOC postured by banning the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), and then permitted 168 athletes to compete as Olympic Athletes from Russia. This was an empty decision, as was the IOC's decision to reinstate the ROC just days after the closing ceremony.

Canadian Iñ​aki Gomez retired from race walking in 2017. (Felipe Dana/Associated Press)
These types of decisions have eroded the trust that athletes have in sport leadership.

One thing that the Russian doping scandal has highlighted is WADA's limited powers — its inability to sanction a country that so blatantly chose to break the rules. That decision had to be deferred to the IOC and others.

Russia's state-supported doping system was, in my view, the biggest sporting scandal in history and, while we all want to move on from it, certain steps must be taken to re-establish integrity in sport before we can. For many, including myself, this means ensuring those responsible for Russia's egregious violations of sport integrity accept responsibility.

I am proud that from this scandal some good has come. Take my sport of athletics for example. The IAAF undertook much-needed reforms to their governance structure, including the creation of the Athletics Integrity Unit, an independent body responsible for, among several things, the oversight of the international athletics anti-doping program.

Through these robust changes, the IAAF has been able to regain some level of trust and continues to take the necessary steps to strengthen the sport. Above all, the IAAF has remained steadfast in its approach with RUSAF, which remains suspended. I do believe that people have taken note of the IAAF's strong leadership and now look to them as a model for improving sports governance and decision-making. 

Beckie Scott's resignation significant

Principled and ethical leadership is rarely found across the sporting landscape. That is why Beckie Scott's recent resignation from the WADA CRC is so significant. Here is an individual of integrity taking a stand against WADA's decision to compromise on RUSADA's compliance roadmap. (International anti-doping leaders from several countries, including Canada, have followed suit by calling on WADA to postpone its upcoming meeting).

I support a strong WADA, but to be strong, WADA needs to be independent and free from the influence of politics. More importantly, WADA needs leaders who are willing to take a principled and ethical approach.

We need more Beckie Scotts.

I urge WADA's members to take a moment before they vote on Thursday to reflect on the enormity of the decision they make. WADA has an opportunity. Does it want to be known as an organization that acts in the interest of clean athletes and for the good of global sport? Or will it go down as the agency that succumbed to the politics of sport?

For the future of sport, the choice is simple: WADA must make the right decision and stick by the original roadmap toward compliance that it created and approved.


Iñ​aki Gomez is a retired race walker who competed for Canada at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. He is chair of the IAAF Athletes’ Commission and a member of the Canadian Olympic Committee Athletes’ Commission.