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Cleaning up sport: conflicts of interest at the top | Space for Transparency


By Catherine Ordway

The tension between the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has never been greater than this year, when WADA recommended a ban on all Russian athletes from participating in the Rio Olympic Games, only to have the IOC reject that position. This points to a fundamental challenge for the relationship between the two organisations. As WADA is half run and funded by the IOC, its independence can be questioned.

In a vote to maintain the status quo, 75 year-old Sir Craig Reedie, an IOC member since 1994, was re-elected on 20 November as WADA President for a further three year term. Many of WADA’s decision-makers appear not to see a conflict in their dual/multiple roles. As IOC member and former WADA President, Dick Pound put it: “Tell me what the conflict of interest is between your capacity as an IOC member espousing clean, doping-free sport and sitting as representative of that organisation on [the] foundation board of WADA, which has the same objective.”

The fact that both WADA and the IOC have as a common goal the desire to achieve ‘drug free’ sport, does not negate the inherent conflict that arises in the space where the aims differ.

Despite creating WADA with inbuilt conflicts, the IOC now realises that WADA needs to change. The Declaration of the 5th Olympic Summit of 8 October recognised the fundamental philosophical tension within international sport on WADA’s role. Recommendation 3 emphasises that: “WADA [is] to strengthen its governance structure” and “[must] Ensure compliance with the highest ethical standards in particular with regard to the resolution of conflicts of interests and integrity.”

The Declaration went on to indicate that WADA should both be better resourced to operate independently and have greater powers. Hopefully this is also an indication that the IOC may now be willing to relinquish control and allow for greater independence.

Organisational objective conflicts

The IOC owns the Olympic Games and receives much of its revenue from the broadcasting and sponsorship of these events. It’s in the IOC’s interest to have the best athletes from all member nations there to keep the Games relevant and competitive. The proposal to ban Russia created a difficult dilemma for the IOC.

The challenge created when common interests raise a potential conflict is also demonstrated in WADA’s appointment of Dick Pound as the lead investigator in the first “independent” report into international athletics (IAAF) and Russia’s state sponsored doping. For the report to be ‘independent’, Pound’s current and former positions should have made him ineligible for this role.

In the most recent demonstration of the challenge posed, IOC members Gian-Franco Kasper and Dr. Ugur Erdender currently sit on both the committees that considered whether the athletes nominated by the Russian Olympic Committee should be barred from competing at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, namely the IOC and WADA Executive Boards.

The IOC’s decision not to accept WADA’s recommendation on Russia’s eligibility sends the message that Olympic goals, including supporting one of the IOC’s strongest members, are prioritised over the aims of WADA. At the meeting of the broader IOC membership, only the former British skeleton athlete, and WADA Foundation member, Adam Pengilly, voted to support WADA’s recommendation, while Reedie abstained.

Composition of WADA’s Decision-Making Bodies

WADA’s mission is to: “promote and coordinate at [the] international level the fight against doping in sport in all its forms”.  To strengthen WADA’s governance and remove the conflicts between the different stakeholders, as recommended by the IOC, requires rewriting WADA’s constitutional documents to allow for the appointment of independent decision-makers.

As it stands now, WADA’s constitution provides for a two-tiered decision making system: the large Foundation Board made up of representatives from both governments and the Olympic movement, and a sub-set of that group sits as the Executive Committee. Most of the policy-makers sitting on WADA’s Executive Committee are also on its decision-making body, the Foundation Board. In order for the Foundation Board to truly play an oversight role, there should not be an overlap of personnel.

To have any claim to ‘independence’, WADA must also sever the tie between receipt of funding, and eligibility for a seat at the WADA board table.

As detailed elsewhere, this bind creates a number of issues for WADA, including: the danger of WADA being manipulated or held hostage by the dominant funder (see reference 1 below) and wasting resources on solving the struggles and disagreements between stakeholders with competing agendas (see reference 2 below).

The separation will help to diminish, but not completely avoid, the issues around funding bodies influencing the way WADA operates. How ‘independence’ is defined and achieved is a challenge that needs to be worked through in consultation with all the major stakeholders. Athletes have the ultimate vested interest in ensuring that sport is played fairly, and that ‘innocent’ athletes are supported and protected (see reference 3 below).

The current financial and rights model must be turned on its head to give athletes the ultimate say on how sport is governed and policed. Inverting the power pyramid will open up dialogue around ensuring greater justice and economic benefits for athletes. A more representative WADA would see a broad, inclusive group of skilled people reflecting the demographics of the community, including athlete alliancesanti-doping specialists, scientists, professional team sport employers and sponsors.

Opening up the nomination process would also provide the opportunity for other organisations with an interest in supporting ‘clean’ sport, such as the UN Office for Drugs and Crime and the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption, to increase their involvement.  There is also capacity to expand UNESCO’s role in monitoring the implementation of the anti-doping convention.

An independent Foundation Board and Executive Committee will “strengthen [WADA’s] governance structure” by creating an additional internal accountability mechanism.  The challenge will be to then develop a fair, inclusive process so the views of athletes can be more comprehensively reflected, replacing the current Athlete Commission model.

The IOC’s plea for the “resolution of conflicts of interests and integrity” can be answered by ensuring that WADA’s decision-making bodies are composed of a diverse range of independent thinkers who are answerable to the athletes, not representative stakeholders.  Managed carefully, having experts from a range of disciplines available to set WADA’s strategic direction will ensure that anti-doping serves those most impacted by it.


1. For more on capture, see P. Sabatier, ‘Social Movements and Regulatory Agencies: Toward a More Adequate – and Less Pessimistic – Theory of “Clientele Capture”’ (1975) 6 Policy Sciences 301; M. E. Levine and J. L. Forrence, ‘Regulatory Capture, Public Interest, and the Public Agenda: Toward a Synthesis’ (1990) 6 Journal of Law, Economics & Organization 167.

2. U. Wagner, ‘The World Anti-Doping Agency: Constructing a Hybrid Organisation in Permanent Stress (Dis)Order?’ (2009) 1 International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics 183, 196.

3. S. Moston and T. Engelberg, “Guilty Until Proven Innocent (and Then Still Guilty)” Report, James Cook University, 15 November 2016

This post was originally published on the Transparency International Blog.

Hanoi: Values, Ethics and Diversity

By Catherine Ordway

I was visiting the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) yesterday for a meeting, and I was struck by the beauty of the sculpture (pictured above). The female paralympic basketballer is reaching for the ball – and the clear blue Canberra sky. I reflected on what “diversity” now means for organisations, and how that might translate into workplace practices for the students I am about to meet in Hanoi, Vietnam later this week.

I am teaching the subject “Values, Ethics and Diversity in Organisations” as part of the Master of Management. This subject is: “designed to develop students’ critical thinking and research skills to contribute to an informed analysis of the role of values, ethics and diversity in contemporary organisations. Through the use of ethical theories, the subject aims to develop students’ abilities to re- frame organisational practices and to include ethical considerations in organisational decision-making. The concept of workplace diversity is introduced and evaluated in Australian and global contexts. Frameworks and tools for managing business ethics and diversity are introduced and critically evaluated. The subject is designed to meet principles 1-4 of the PRME principles.”

The United Nations (UN) Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) initiative of the UN Global Compact seeks to inspire and champion responsible management education, research, and thought leadership globally. As set out in La Trobe’s most recent UNPRME report, I am pleased to be one of the: “11 Professors of Practice with significant and ongoing industry experience to ensure our teaching and curriculum keep step with industry practice.

The Professor of Practice title also seeks to highlight what industry can contribute to academia and while many Australian business schools offer industry experts positions as casual or adjunct staff, La Trobe is the first university in Australia to formally employ them and integrate them into the day-to-day operations of the school. The Professors of Practice contribute practical advice and industry networks and connections to our students, while improving curriculum design by ensuring it is relevant and up-to-date with industry standards and trends. As well as contributing to research and teaching, our Professors of Practice facilitate meaningful engagement with leaders in business, government policy making and the not-for-profit sector”.

The cooperation with Hanoi University is a very exciting initiative, and am very happy to be a part of it.

LBS Professor of Practice Catherine Ordway sheds light on IOC’s decision to allow Russia to compete in Rio Games


The International Olympic Committee has recently come under fire as a result of their decision not to enforce a blanket ban against the Russian Olympic team from competing in the Rio games. The ban was to come as a result of recent reports which found that the team engaged in state-sponsored doping during the 2014 Winter games.

LBS Professor of Practice Catherine Ordway has been recently interviewed on The Midday Report, ABC News 24 TV, Mornings with Genevieve Jacobs, ABC 666 Radio Canberra, The 2cc Breakfast Show and The World Today with respect to the issues surrounding the IOC and the Russian Olympic team.

The IOC indicated that it decided against a blanket ban to protect the rights of clean athletes who wished to compete in the Rio games. Accordingly, it is now up to individual sports federation to determine each Russian athlete’s eligibility to compete in the Rio games.

When asked why the IOC went down this path LBS Professor of Practice Ordway discusses the complex nature of the situation and concludes by saying that “They [the IOC] have a number of other events that they were scheduled to be holding in Russia. They’re a big player on the world scene. A country like Russia may be too big and too powerful for them [the IOC] to take on head on.”

LBS’s Catherine Ordway featured on ABC’s Radio Breakfast discussing possible Olympic ban

Professor of Practice Catherine Ordway
was featured on ABC’s 666 ABC Canberra Breakfast with Philip Clark, commenting on the issue around potentially banning Russian athletes from participation in the Rio Olympic Games after the publication of the McLaren Report.

Catherine Ordway spoke about whether the IRC has the freedom to make a decision on whether or not to allow Russian athletes to compete, and what difficulties they face making a decision like this.

Listen to the full fragment on the ABC Radio website.

LBS’s Professor of Practice Catherine Ordway on Doping in Light of the upcoming Rio Olympics

CO ABC TV News 26 May 2016

With less than two months to go until the 2016 Rio Olympics, Russian athletes who tested positive to illicit substances in the lead up to the Beijing Olympics have been banned from competing. La Trobe Business School Professor of Practice Catherine Ordway discussed these recent developments on BBC World Radio’s Newsday on Tuesday 21 June 2016.

Last month, Professor of Practice Ordway also spoke about the current state of doping amongst Olympic athletes during an interview on Radio National, as well as during a  recent television appearance on ABC’s The World. Catherine was interviewed by Beverly O’Connor about the concerns going into the Rio games and about the difficulty of monitoring cheating. She notes that this is due to “athletes now using a whole range of experimental drugs, none of which have been permitted for human use”. As such, it is “difficult for the World Anti-Doping Agency to get proper verified studies done in order that they be robust enough to stand up in the Court of Arbitration for Sport”.

Professor of Practice Ordway was also interviewed on ABC’s The World Today, where she explained that the world is currently waiting anxiously to find out which athletes may be banned from the Rio games and if any Australians will be caught in the crossfire.

LBS Professor of Practice Catherine Ordway presents paper on Regulating Corruption in Sport


Recently, Professor of Practice Catherine Ordway participated in a joint Web-Ex lecture on anti-corruption which was jointly hosted by ROLAC (Centre for Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption) and UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) .

Catherine Ordway presented her paper titled ‘Sports Corruption: Justice and Accountability through the Use of the UNCAC and the UNTOC’, which she co-wrote with Dr Nikos Passas from Northeastern University.

Paper abstract

The corruption scandal currently engulfing football’s international governing body, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), and the recent allegations of bribery in order to host the 2006 World Cup in Germany[1] raise a number of issues.  Allegations in recent years of bribery, embezzlement, misappropriation, money-laundering, vote rigging and other abuses of power within several international sports federations demand that this type of misconduct be investigated and prosecuted.  In the absence of a comparable international integrity oversight body similar to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), it is timely to examine the applicability and potential usefulness of existing international instruments.

Given that the United Nations Conventions against Corruption (UNCAC) and against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) represent the most comprehensive global standards and have the highest number of States Parties (177 and 185 respectively, as of October 2015), this paper examines in detail the applicability of these instruments to the most prominent and challenging sports corruption instances revealed in recent times.  The misconduct covered by these instruments and their mutual legal assistance frameworks, in addition to innovative provisions on dual criminality, asset recovery and the definition of an organized criminal group, can significantly enhance international cooperation and effective law enforcement.  In this way, justice, accountability and greater transparency will be boosted on a global scale.


Catherine Ordway is a Professor of Practice in La Trobe Business School, specialising in sport management. She has more than 20 years experience in the Sports Industry and continues to provide consultancy services to Olympic bidding cities, government agencies and sporting organisations on integrity and anti-doping issues. Catherine is a member of the SportAccord (GAISF), IBAF (baseball), ICC and West Indies (cricket) anti-doping tribunals, and is the IAAF (athletics) medical and anti-doping delegate for Australia.

LBS’s Catherine Ordway comments on WADA Report on 666 ABC Radio Canberra


On 28 April 2016, LBS Professor of Practice Catherine Ordway was featured on 666 ABC Radio Canberra’s Drive. Catherine commented on Australia’s appearance in WADA’s report as one of the top ten global offenders for doping in 2014.

Listen to Catherine speak (2:14:00) in the full fragment on ABC radio’s website.

LBS Professors of Practice: How to develop effective representative boards

Catherine Ordway Michael Wildenauer Governance La Trobe Business School

Recently, La Trobe Business School’s Professors of Practice Michael Wildenauer and Catherine Ordway attended the 32nd National Conference of Contemporary Governance, where they conducted a workshop on ‘The Challenges of Representative Boards’.

The workshop, aimed at an audience of governance professionals including lawyers, corporate secretaries and board members, mostly consisted of attendees who currently worked on or with representative boards, keen to discuss challenges they faced, and strategies they could develop to confront those challenges.

“Most of the members attending came from a governance background with years of experience.” Michael Wildenauer says. “In that context, there isn’t anything new I would be able to teach them about how boards worked and what is required of them as directors. But what we could do was present them some really relevant research findings to spark a discussion, identify challenges in representative boards across sectors to see what they may have in common, and how these challenges could be overcome.”

“When you are a member of a representative board, elected or appointed” Michael explains, “it is important to remember that you are representing more than just your constituents. The board is responsible as a whole for every decision the governing body makes.” According to Michael, there are numerous factors that contribute to a well-functioning board, some structural and many cultural. One of the big issues is diversity, both on the board itself and within subcommittees.

Representative boards structurally create the opportunity for some diversity through providing a seat at the table for particular interests. While this structural diversity is important, as Michael explained, the workshop also explored the need: “to ensure that there is diversity within the various ‘factions’ on representative boards. For example, if all the employer appointed directors on a superannuation trustee board are 60 year old males and the union appointed directors are 35 year old women, the ‘us vs them’ dynamic can be very powerful. Furthermore, if boards have a token member from a diverse group, it’s possible that this token member will not have the confidence to speak up if they feel isolated. Or maybe they will speak, but they may not be heard.” For these reasons, Catherine Ordway points to the significant amount of research that supports that idea that a board that better represents the community in terms of gender and the range of education, culture, language, religious and life experiences can assist in: “more robust, creative and innovative decision-making”.

Other factors influencing the efficiency of a leadership board can be more straightforward, such as the size of the group and length of tenure. If there are too many directors, it creates room for passive members, who want to join a board for prestige purposes, but don’t necessarily play an active role in the board’s deliberations. Catherine’s experience with sports boards echoes this and she believes that: “the current scandals at the international level in tennis, football, the AFL and athletics relate back to self-interested board members who fail to put the organisation’s interests before their own”. Michael agrees: “A lot of the feedback we received from workshop attendees did relate to size and to long tenure. When attendees were asked to map out the challenges they encountered on sheets of butcher’s paper, the same topics resurfaced again and again. The group was very engaged in discussions around overcoming these challenges, and were very keen to share their own ideas and listen to those of others. That’s a good start.”

Catherine Ordway discussing Essendon Football Club supplements case on ABC Radio


Recently, Sports Management specialist and La Trobe Business School Professor of Practice Catherine Ordway, was featured on the ABC Radio news speaking about the decision of the Court of Arbitration for Sport on the Essendon supplements case.

You can listen to Catherine on the ABC website.

Doping verdict takeout: Ask more questions

By Catherine Ordway

I am not surprised by the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s finding of anti-doping rule violations by the Essendon Football Club players. It’s the right decision and I am pleased the panel found the evidence supports the claim made by ASADA that the players had been injected with a prohibited substance.

The 34 current and former Essendon players, whether innocent or not depending on your perspective, were found to have been injected with the banned peptide Thymosin Beta-4. They have been suspended until November 2016 after a tumultuous three years of intense scrutiny.

The outstanding takeaway from the CAS decision for the players and the board members of the Essendon Football Club is this: Ask more questions.

Catherine Ordway La Trobe Business School Essendon Doping Verdict

Essendon chief executive Xavier Campbell (left) and chairman Lindsay Tanner at a press conference after the CAS handed down its decision. Picture: Michael Dodge/Getty Images

Players accepted what they were told by their coaches and trainers and ignored warning signs: Why wasn’t the club doctor involved? Why were they being taken to an off-site location? Where was the documented individual player injection programs? Why weren’t there medical files for each player? What were they being injected with on each occasion? Was it approved for human consumption? How were the performance improvements being measured?

As ASADA CEO Ben McDevitt said: “At best, the players did not ask the questions, or the people, they should have. At worst, they were complicit in a culture of secrecy and concealment.”

The starting point under the World Anti-Doping Code is that all athletes take full responsibility for any substance ingested into their body. Despite the players receiving anti-doping education, and the supplements program not being administered by the club doctor Bruce Reid – he was excluded from the program – players took the word of Stephen Dank, employed as a sports scientist by Essendon.

Read the CAS ruling in full here


If the players believed what they were being told about the program being WADA compliant, why didn’t they declare the injections on the ASADA doping control forms as required? Is it because they didn’t know, and didn’t want to know, what they were being injected with?

The players were told by Stephen Dank the program complied with the WADA code. PIcture: Shutterstock

The players were told by Stephen Dank the program complied with the WADA code. PIcture: Shutterstock

The players were lied to about what they were being injected with, and told by Dank the program complied with the WADA code. In this way, players can be said to be innocent victims up to a point, but they should have done more to seek advice beyond the narrow confines of the club.
Dank’s behaviour throughout did not satisfy any professional standards.

Beyond requirements for athlete support personnel under the WADA Code, conduct of this kind in any other industry would attract jail time.

While players should have asked more questions, fault for this scandal lies much further up the line: multiple governance failings and weaknesses created this perfect storm. The governance within the club has been described as appalling; with major structural and accountability deficiencies identified.

To a large extent, these issues have now been resolved and the recommendations outlined in Dr Ziggy Switkowki’s 2013 report followed. Dr Reid admits that he could have done much more to prevent the program, although he did try to have it stopped; an instruction which was ignored.

Former Essendon coach James Hird. Picture; Michael Dodge/Getty Images Catherine Ordway La Trobe Business School

Former Essendon coach James Hird. Picture; Michael Dodge/Getty Images

Another crucial factor to be considered is the team environment versus athletes competing in individual sports. Although all the players were over 18, senior players and people with “god-like” charisma, such as that ascribed to Essendon head coach James Hird, can have an enormous influence in a team setting. This was not explored by the CAS panel.

I wonder whether this presents a research opportunity: comparing the influence a long-term, one-on-one coaching relationship has on a young, impressionable individual athlete verses the pressures within a team environment, and whether these are factors the CAS panel should have taken into account.

From here, there are two ways the 34 players can explore further legal options. First, lawyers for the players could appeal the CAS finding to the Swiss Federal Tribunal. This, however, I suspect is unlikely. The CAS decision thoroughly sets out why the panel felt they were “comfortably satisfied” with the evidence presented. The “comfortable satisfaction” standard of proof sits somewhere between the criminal standard of beyond reasonable doubt and the civil standard of the balance of probabilities.

The second approach is for players to lodge civil action against the Essendon Football Club for a breach of the club’s duty of care toward them, and citing a loss of reputation, current and/or future earnings and potential damage to players’ future mental and physical health. As the products have not been approved for human consumption, we have no idea what the injections’ impact could be, with the possibility they may lead to heart conditions, fertility issues, susceptibility to various cancers or impacts on their unborn children.

The CAS finding that the players were injected with an unapproved substance will undoubtedly now be used against the club in expensive civil proceedings.

At a time when there have been numerous failings around governance in sport internationally — including a raft of reports that have given international federations responsible for football, cricket, cycling and athletics a shake-up — the Essendon case is important. The CAS ruling makes it clear athletes need to do more and take more responsibility for their own health and wellbeing, even in a team environment. Players and officials cannot rely entirely on information they are given within the club. Players must do their own independent research and ask more questions.

CatherineOrdwayCatherine Ordway is a Professor of Practice in La Trobe Business School, specialising in sport management. She has more than 20 years experience in the Sports Industry and continues to provide consultancy services to Olympic bidding cities, government agencies and sporting organisations on integrity and anti-doping issues. Catherine is a member of the SportAccord (GAISF), IBAF (baseball), ICC and West Indies (cricket) anti-doping tribunals, and is the IAAF (athletics) medical and anti-doping delegate for Australia.

This article was originally published on Melbourne University’s Pursuit Blog.

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