News: March 2017

World Anti-Doping Agency Symposium

On 13 March 2017, Michael Pedersen spoke about whistleblowing in the context of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) Annual Symposium in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Framed along the lines of “Tackling our Challenges and Strengthening the Future of Clean Sport”, the Symposium brought together approx. 750 persons from across the world and stakeholder groups for three days of discussions related to the fight against doping.

As part of the theme “Encouraging and Protecting Whistleblowers”, the panel, which Michael Pedersen spoke in, was focused on “Sharing Whistleblowing Experiences and Looking at Potential Synergies between Collection Channels”.

Based on his experience and expertise as an independent governance expert working with organizations from across sports, sectors, countries and regions, Michael Pedersen mainly focused his panel intervention on sharing his perspectives on challenges and solutions related to ensuring the adequateness and effectiveness of whistleblowing programs.

Highlighted challenges related to ensuring the adequateness of a whistleblowing program were as follows:

  • Anonymous reporting vs. reporting in confidence
  • Protection of whistleblowers, including punishing retaliation against whistleblowers
  • Protection of accused persons, including sanctioning of false reporting
  • Secure channels for continued dialogue with the whistleblower, including data security
  • Independence of persons at the receiving end
  • Availability in terms of operating hours and languages

Highlighted challenges related to ensuring the effectiveness of a whistleblowing program were as follows:

  • Lack of knowledge among potential whistleblowers of what whistleblowing is and how it is done
  • Negative perceptions around a whistleblower being a snitch
  • Low levels of trust in people and organizations

As for solutions to those challenges, Michael Pedersen first of all emphasized the importance of an inclusive process for developing a whistleblowing program to ensure that all stakeholders get a voice and feel ownership of a solution. He also stressed the importance of learning from evolving good practices across sectors. Last but not least, Michael made the point that there is no finish line in making a whistleblowing program effective. Not only is it important to continue the process of further developing and fine-tuning a program. It is equally important to steer a process of creating cultural change. Perceptions of fair play and sportsmanship need to change. Athletes ought no longer just keep their own house in order, while quietly accepting that others cheat. Whenever they have serious concerns or knowledge of someone else doping, they need to start appreciating that it is good sportsmanship and fair play for them to come forward and raise concern as whistleblowers.

Other speakers in the panel, moderated by Callum Murray, Editorial Director at Sportcal, were:

  • Michael Ask, CEO, Anti-Doping Denmark
  • Toby Atkins, British Cyclist
  • François Marclay, Intelligence Manager, Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation
  • Hajo Seppelt, Reporter, ARD; Co-Founder,
  • Günter Younger, Director, Intelligence and Investigations, WADA

For further information about WADA’s whistleblowing program, see its dedicated website.