WADA President Witold Bańka has begun a series of meetings with athletes ©WADA

World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) President Witold Bańka has begun a series of meetings with athletes to improve engagement with the global watchdog. 

The meetings with individual athletes and athlete groups and associations were held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Once COVID-19 restrictions lift, face-to-face discussions will be held.

Such meetings have been organised to follow up on Bańka's personal pledge to engage meaningfully with the athlete community.

They also contribute to WADA's overall commitment to be more athlete-centered, as outlined within the Agency's recently published five-year strategic plan.

"Last week, WADA announced its new strategic plan that will guide the Agency's activity over the next five years," Bańka said.

"At the core of this plan is a desire and commitment to ensure that our activities and priorities are athlete centered. 

"As a former elite athlete, I understand the importance of listening to the views of athletes worldwide and addressing the matters that are of most interest to them. 

"The Agency will be looking for every opportunity to engage with them to further enhance the global anti-doping system. 

"Over the last months, I have personally met with many of the athletes that sit on our Foundation Board, Executive Committee, Athlete Committee and expert committees. 

"I will continue this engagement and much more throughout my Presidency."

Bańka also revealed a dedicated agenda item on athletes' matters would feature at every WADA Executive Committee and Foundation Board meeting from September. 

WADA's new strategic plan has six strategic priorities – one of which is to be athlete-centered.

This priority involves WADA engaging and empowering athletes to contribute to the development of anti-doping policies and building an easier anti-doping process for athletes.

A key initiative to delivering on this priority is to develop and promote new communication mechanisms to seek athletes' views and address their feedback. 

Bańka, a former 400 metre sprinter for Poland, was elected WADA President in May 2019.