Olympic sports leaders have begun debating how to improve a global anti-doping system amid the fallout of a Russian state-backed cheating scandal.
A closed-doors meeting chaired by IOC President Thomas Bach was discussing Saturday the role of the World Anti-Doping Agency, which angered many Olympic officials by calling for Russia to be banned from the Rio de Janeiro Games.
Olympic leaders have long favored taking control of drug testing from sports federations, though WADA’s possible role in a newly independent system has been questioned since it appointed two investigations that detailed Russian doping and cover-ups.
Delegates included the International Paralympic Committee’s president, Philip Craven, who successfully excluded Russia from the Paralympic Games in Rio. Craven said he expected the meeting would be more about cooperation than confrontation, after IOC and anti-doping officials publicly traded strong views ahead of the summit.
“Sport has to come together and I think it will,” Craven told reporters as he went into an expected four-hour session at the IOC’s favorite five-star hotel in Lausanne.
The meeting was scheduled despite the final report of the second WADA investigation panel, led by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren, not being due until at least late-October.
McLaren’s interim report in July provoked calls for Russia’s expulsion from the Rio Games – which Bach resisted – and his final document should go into more detail of how a WADA-accredited laboratory manipulated home athletes’ tainted samples at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.
Caution was a common theme of officials arriving Saturday, including FIFA President Gianni Infantino and Olympic powerbroker Sheik Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah of Kuwait, leader of the global group of national Olympic bodies.
“Let’s see,” Sheikh Ahmad said when asked what the session could achieve. “We will follow the agenda.”
Bach will report on the meeting in a telephone call with media later Saturday. He has suggested that non-binding recommendations will be made to WADA to oversee drug testing in a “more efficient and more robust way.”
WADA leaders will meet – likely with the full McLaren report in hand – on Nov. 19-20 in Glasgow, Scotland.