WADA launches probe into 'bullying, harassment' allegations

A statement from WADA said law firm Covington & Burling would probe conduct by members of the agency's Executive Committee during a meeting in the Seychelles last September.

Canadian cross-country skier Beckie Scott resigned from WADA's Compliance Review Committee.   -  GETTY IMAGES

The World Anti-Doping Agency said on Thursday it has hired a law firm to carry out an independent investigation into allegations of bullying and harassment by senior executives within the organisation.

A statement from WADA said law firm Covington & Burling would probe conduct by members of the agency's Executive Committee during a meeting in the Seychelles last September.

The meeting led to the resignation of Canadian cross-country skier Beckie Scott from WADA's Compliance Review Committee.

Scott, who had spoken out against WADA's plans to lift sanctions against Russia's anti-doping agency (RUSADA), said she had been treated with a “level of disrespect” by fellow WADA officials at the meeting.

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“There was laughter when I read the list of athlete committees who had produced statements and who were confronting the decision,” Scott later told the BBC in an interview.

“It was all, it was a combined effect that left me feeling as though there is very little respect, there is very little appreciation, and there is very little value for the contribution that the athletes have at this table.”

Scott said neither WADA's president nor director general had challenged officials who made “gestures that were inappropriate.”

“I think it is indicative of two things: One is the lack of regard for the athlete's voice generally,” Scott said.

“I think that there has been an attitude of dismissal, of belittling, and marginalization; sidelining of the athlete's voice.”

An initial internal WADA investigation reported in November that there was no evidence to support Scott's claims of bullying, but said further interviews were necessary.

Thursday's statement from the Montreal-based agency confirmed that Covington had been retained to conduct “a full and thorough investigation of allegations of bullying and harassment.”

Investigators would be asked to conduct interviews of all relevant parties and to deliver “unbiased and independent findings” to the agency's executive committee.