Edwin Moses: WADA must cut ties with IOC to regain trust in sport

EPA/Hendrik Schmidt

[Editor's note: Edwin Moses is chairman of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in track and field and founding chairman of Laureus World Sports Academy.]

As the famous phrase by former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson goes, "A week is a long time in politics." Well, a week is an even longer time in sports politics, and that is what we have all had to endure the past week: sports politics at its very worst.

On Thursday, bewilderingly and inexplicably, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) chose to reinstate the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, despite the country not having fulfilled the required conditions of the WADA's so-called "roadmap" -- and despite days of mounting pressure from the world's athletes, sports fans and anti-doping organizations in the lead-up to the vote.

Rightly, the WADA's faux pas prompted outrage and shock from disillusioned athletes, sports fans and the public. People all over the world were amazed that the global anti-doping authority had, following a lengthy standoff with the Russians, blinked first and offered an incomprehensible compromise by bending the rules of its own roadmap to allow a country that perpetrated the worst doping scandal in history the opportunity to re-enter the fold early. Was this really the organization that purports to protect clean athletes? Or was this an organization that had just done the very opposite and offered to protect the sanctioned instead? What concerns me most is the distinct possibility that athletes will never be able to trust the WADA again.

The WADA's decision was about so much more than Russian reinstatement; it was about the type of organization the WADA has become -- a governing body that put the interests of a small handful of sports politicians ahead of the rights of millions of clean athletes.

It put a small, powerful minority of sports folk above the will of the huge majority, and it will struggle to regain the trust of the world's athletes or sports fans because of it. And why did it do that, you might ask? Well, it did so because of the entirely compromised and conflicted governance model that currently exists, which gives the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and International Sports Federation members a disproportionate amount of influence when it comes to the key decisions.

These sports administrators' main priority is to promote their sports at all costs, and therefore, they have little interest in taking the fight to the dopers -- because that could lead to controversy and scandal in the very sports they are trying to keep unblemished. If that's not enough to make you scratch your head, then get this: The only athlete representative who had a vote on Thursday was a member of the IOC Athletes Commission, a body of athletes so blisteringly out of touch with the majority of athletes worldwide that it is beyond belief that it is allowed to contribute to a decision of such magnitude. Almost every athlete voice and athlete body was imploring the WADA not to reinstate Russia. The only pro-Russia group of athletes was the IOC Athlete Commission -- a group of athletes that had the audacity to criticize the WADA's Athlete Commission, led by the widely respected Beckie Scott, for calling for a blanket ban on the Russian Olympic team following its state-sponsored doping scandal ahead of the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

The WADA must cut all ties from the International Olympic Committee if athletes and sports fans are ever to regain trust in sport. Given the way the WADA made its decision -- which was in stark contrast to the interests of the world's clean athletes -- it cannot continue with its current decision-making structure, and it cannot continue with its current governance structure, in which sports promoters make decisions that impact the lives of international athletes. Athletes expect tough, effective and uncompromising decisions to be made in the interests of clean sport, not appeasement strategies that benefit dirty athletes.

Either we completely overhaul the way the WADA is governed, by removing sports administrators from the WADA's boards -- an approach that would see the WADA free itself entirely from the IOC and other International Sports Federations, who themselves have proved devastatingly weak on doping and completely out of touch with the public mood -- or we replace the WADA with an organization that has the "teeth," authority, determination and independence to act as a strong and robust regulator.

Given the WADA's mistakes of late, simply tweaking things around the edges will not be enough. People now expect drastic action from the WADA if we are ever to restore faith in sport. Should we go to the lengths of replacing the WADA by another, more effective global anti-doping body? I wouldn't rule it out. With the WADA in turmoil and public belief fading fast, we must leave no option off the table.

We, the anti-doping leaders who do listen to athletes, who are in touch with the athlete and public mood, must grab the bull by the horns and dedicate ourselves wholeheartedly to a new, athlete-centered anti-doping system that doesn't just pay lip service to those athletes. Any such new system must be everything the IOC's so-called "International Testing Authority" is not; it must be an independent, fearless policing body that leaves no stone unturned in cleaning up sport. The sports movement-backed Independent Testing Authority couldn't be further from what the athletes and public want; it is quite clearly not the answer to anti-doping's troubles.

The WADA has left a void, and we, the international anti-doping leaders, must now step in and put principle above politics. That new approach must start today, as we find solutions and lead the way.