WADA held a virtual forum attended by members of its leadership, 10 Ministers for Sport from across Africa and the African Union's Commissioner for Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development ©Getty Images

Key members of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) leadership have called on Governments in Africa to play their role in strengthening anti-doping programmes across the continent.

A virtual forum was attended by 10 Ministers for Sport from across Africa, as well as the African Union's Commissioner for Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development.

WADA President Witold Bańka thanked the Government representatives from Africa with their work in relation to anti-doping and stressed the importance of the role they play in ensuring clean sport.

"The Governments of the world are key stakeholders for WADA and we want to ensure that you are kept up to date on the very latest developments within anti-doping," Bańka said.

"Just as importantly, we wish to hear from you and respond to your questions, comments or concerns.

"We want to consider the growing importance of the African continent in sport and the important role African Governments play in the anti-doping eco-system and find ways to enhance that contribution."

WADA held the meeting as a means to gauge government opinions from around the world.

Four of the seven Athletics Integrity Unit category A National Federations - those that have the highest doping risk - are from Africa: Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco and Nigeria.

Bahrain, Belarus and Ukraine are also category A.

Bańka told the forum collaboration with athletes was important to ensure each country in Africa has a strong anti-doping programme.

WADA President Witold Bańka emphasised
WADA President Witold Bańka emphasised "Governments of the world are key stakeholders for WADA" ©Getty Images

"Another vitally important group of stakeholders with whom we must collaborate more is the athletes," he said.

"Anti-doping is all about the wellbeing and rights of athletes.

"It is our responsibility to strive to give them the opportunity to compete on a level playing field.

"A key priority identified in WADA’s Strategic Plan is to be more athlete-centred so that whatever we do, we do it with the participation of athletes of the world.

"We must listen to their needs; understand what frustrates and motivates them; tune into their considered views; and ultimately, take decisions based on that input.

"It is a balancing act to find common ground among so many different views - but it is important to listen and hear what athletes expect from the global anti-doping system.

"We will continue to ensure that the African athletes’ voices are heard."

WADA vice-president Yang Yang was also present at the forum and reiterated the need for Governments and athletes to work together to strengthen anti-doping initiatives in Africa.

"For Africa to play its part in strengthening the global anti-doping movement, African Governments and African sports federations must also work together," she commented.

Ethiopia is one of four African countries whose National Federation is deemed category A by the Athletics Integrity Unit ©Getty Images
Ethiopia is one of four African countries whose National Federation is deemed category A by the Athletics Integrity Unit ©Getty Images

"Governments and sports must stand shoulder-to-shoulder in pursuit of protecting the health and well-being of African athletes; sing with one voice in protecting national pride in the performances of athletes; jointly uphold athletes’ rights and responsibilities; and collaboratively create a conducive environment for the development and implementation of strong and sustainable anti-doping programmes.

"It is this same philosophy that led to WADA’s creation 22 years ago, and it remains true today.

"If we work together as one, we can achieve anything."

Members of the WADA leadership explained to those present at the forum some of the measures currently being worked upon, including in relation to funding for anti-doping.

The global agency also has a 2020-2024 Strategic Plan, which includes six priorities, one of which is leading by example to take "bold steps to proactively tackle emerging issues with agility and innovative solutions across all facets of anti-doping", growing the impact of anti-doping programmes and becoming more "athlete-centred."

Its director general, Olivier Niggli, provided further detail to members of the forum, as well as encouraging ongoing collaboration and outlining some of the challenges faced by WADA and plans to tackle these.