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Covid-19, another Reason to empower Athletes in Anti-Doping

A few days ago, the German Sport University in Cologne presented the results of a survey that demonstrated the financial impact that Covid-19 has had on elite German athletes. The research team showed that on average, German Olympic and Paralympic athletes have lost 25% of their regular income since the begin of the pandemic. One can only assume that athletes worldwide are facing similar impacts and the situation is expected to worsen next year.

Both the IOC and the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee have signaled their commitment to host next year´s Olympic Games. This may be good news for thousands of athletes who depend on sponsorship and prize money for which the Olympic Summer Games are the main driver. Nevertheless, the exponentially increasing numbers of Covid-19 infections in many countries must inevitably lead athletes and event organisers to question what additional restrictions  Covid-19 may bring along in the mid- and long-term.

This is a rhetorical question no one can answer at this stage. What is clear, however, is that athletes although they are essential to sports, are particularly vulnerable as the German survey shows.


Is there anything anti-doping organisations can do to better protect athletes?


Athletes are the key stakeholder in sport and, given the opportunity, can provide significant experiential expertise which will be invaluable as the sport community plans for and moves to the future. It is vital to make athletes part of decision-making processes to provide them with protection of their rights and to make sport sustainable in the long term.

In our field anti-doping, there is still work ahead of us to give athletes the recognition they deserve. The World Anti-Doping Agency announced that it will develop a model that one day would allow athletes to hold voting rights within their structure. Given the implications of anti-doping to their careers and private lives, giving athletes a seat at the decision table in WADA must be a top priority. Equally, International Sport Federations, National Governing Bodies of Sport, and not last National Anti-Doping Organisation must also continue to work to integrate athletes into their structures.


An opportunity for better integration of stakeholders in anti-doping


The World Anti-Doping Agency will soon start a Review of its own Governance. The review is planned as a broad consultation process among anti-doping stakeholders including National Anti-Doping Organisations (NADOs). NADOs are bound by the World Anti-Doping Code, are the main face of anti-doping work worldwide, drive innovation, and yet they have no formal seat at the decision table.  This review process should strengthen WADA Governance and a better integration of all anti-doping stakeholders, including athletes and NADOs, is key to achieving this.


- Jorge Leyva, CEO -