— Published 6 September 2023

WADA accused of pressure

With the Paris 2024 Games less than a year away, the timing of the affair is very bad. AFP reports that the Sanction Commission of the French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD) is the target of “pressure” from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). The latter is said to have criticized the AFLD for not being severe enough in its decisions. And, more seriously, threatened to withdraw its compliance. The sanctions commission, an independent entity of the AFLD, explains that it has received a letter from the WADA which “enjoins it to modify its behavior in the future on pain of initiating a non-compliance procedure with regard to the French agency, which could lead to sanctions against France.” The threat is a serious one, especially just over 300 days before the opening of the Paris 2024 Games. However, WADA accompanied it with an argument, in the form of three commission decisions which, in its view, should have been more severe. In its letter, WADA warns: “Should this trend of issuing decisions that are manifestly not in compliance with the Code and CAS jurisprudence continue, WADA’s Legal Affairs Department will have no choice but to refer this matter for review by its internal Compliance Working Group, so that any appropriate action can be taken.” For the eleven-member Sanctions Commission, chaired by a State Councillor, the letter is nothing less than an attempt at blackmail. For the AFLD, on the other hand, the World Anti-Doping Agency is simply doing its job. When questioned by AFP, it explained that WADA’s main aim was to remind people of “the rules that apply to all anti-doping organizations throughout the world.” Still according to the AFLD, its letter “does not call into question the independence of the commission in assessing the cases referred to it.” Much ado about nothing? No doubt. But the Sanction Commission points this out in a press release: since its creation, it has taken “several hundred decisions. WADA has not contested any of them. Instead of taking the legal route by lodging an appeal with the Conseil d’Etat, it is suddenly trying to interfere grossly in the commission’s operations.