Senior WADA officials, including President Witold Bańka have been forced to defend the organisation's governance reform process amid criticism ©Getty Images

Senior World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) officials have again been forced to defend its governance reform process amid criticism from athletes and members of its Foundation Board.

Athlete groups and 14 National Anti-Doping Organisations renewed their pleas for the process to be sped up prior to yesterday's Executive Committee meeting and the gathering of the Foundation Board today, both of which were held virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Concerns over the pace of the governance reforms, approved by WADA's ruling body in November 2018, were also expressed by the United States Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) when it threatened to withdraw its funding earlier this year.

WADA's Executive Committee took a step towards fulfilling another of the reforms - the majority of which the global watchdog claims have already been implemented or on the way to being implemented - with the endorsement of Patricia Sangenis and Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni as the two independent members of the body.

Anthony Jones, who represented the United States in place of ONDCP director James Carroll and was a vocal critic of WADA during today's Foundation Board meeting, questioned why it had taken two years to come up with the two names.

Jones added the ONDCP "encourages move at a faster pace with its governance reforms".

Sangenis, a former member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Medical Commission who has also received awards from the IOC for her work in women's sport, was put forward for the position by the sports movement.

Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe Battaini-Dragoni, a revered author and politician, was among the candidates suggested by the Governments.

Both were recommended for the positions by WADA's Nominations Committee, a product of the governance reform set up to vet officials for key positions within the organisation.

They are set to be confirmed as Executive Committee members following a two-week circulatory vote of the Foundation Board, although Battaini-Dragoni will not join until next year if her candidacy is approved as her position with the Council of Europe was extended as part of the group's response to the COVID-19 crisis and she therefore does not meet the independence test.

The way in which they were selected was the subject of criticism from Jones and Clayton Cosgrove, New Zealand's public authority representative on the Foundation Board.

Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni was today announced as one of two new independent members of WADA's ruling body ©Getty Images
Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni was today announced as one of two new independent members of WADA's ruling body ©Getty Images

Cosgrove slammed the Nomination Committee's process, claiming their report had been "deficient" and that it was absurd the Foundation Board had to vote "blind" on whether they are suitable candidates for the position.

WADA's Executive Committee also approved the composition of a working group, chaired by Swiss lawyer Ulrich Haas to "monitor the effect of the ongoing reforms and for proposing additional governance reforms going forward".

A draft of the ethics code - another element of the governance reform package - was also presented to the Foundation Board.

The sports movement, led by the IOC, appears to be pushing for the Executive Committee to be given sanctioning power, with another proposal suggesting this should be the role of the independent ethics board.

In response to the longstanding criticism regarding the speed of reform at WADA, still reeling from the Russian doping scandal, director general Olivier Niggli said it was "easy to say things to do not move at the right pace."

"If you want to do things properly these things take time and we have not cut any corners," Niggli said.

WADA founding President Richard Pound also leapt to the organisation's defence, claiming "quite a lot" had been done since the approval of the reform package two years ago.

Pound said the "diffuse criticism" from athletes and NADOs had come from the "usual suspects" and had been "misplaced".

"If they want to have any credibility on their own, then they need to come up with constructive ideas instead of continuing to complain on a generalised basis," he added.

The sports movement proposed Pound be made the first WADA Honorary President, before it was agreed to park the suggestion pending further discussion.