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Creating the WADA Code

USADA & the WADA Code

The development of the World Anti-Doping Code by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in 2004 will serve as the model for the process of developing the Thoroughbred Horseracing Anti-Doping Authority’s charter and framework.  Over a decade of iteration, the WADA Code has become the Agency’s core document that outlines anti-doping policies, rules and regulations within sport organizations and among public authorities.

The product of a long and collaborative process with many stakeholder groups involved, the Code originally went into effect on January 1, 2004 with two rounds of amendments going into effect in 2009 and 2015.

The Code originally went into effect on January 1, 2004, and two rounds of amendments went into effect in 2009 and 2015.

The Code is the product of a long and collaborative process with many stakeholder groups involved, including the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).  USADA was an active participant and an important contributor in the Code review, submitting comments and feedback, and sharing its expertise and experience throughout the process.  In fact, the lead draftsman on the WADA Code Project Team and on the 2009 and 2015 amendments is the primary legal counsel for USADA.

Code-Writing Process

At the time of its inception, international federations, national Olympic committees and other organizations each had their own set of anti-doping rules which often turned out to be inconsistent, ineffective and uncoordinated. Recognizing how disjointed the world’s anti-doping policies had become, widespread consensus was soon reached among stakeholders that harmonization of rules was paramount to the credibility and effectiveness of global anti-doping efforts.

The process for the original code began in 2003 with a small Code Drafting Team (CDT), tasked with soliciting worldwide input and drafting based on that input.  The CDT included several senior experts from WADA and two outside team members – a process consultant and the primary draftsman.

Before the first draft of the Code was ever circulated, the CDT initiated a comprehensive process to seek feedback from hundreds of stakeholders and experts on both the framework of the Code (how the Code should interplay with the different facets of anti-doping) and opinions on those key elements of the rules that would form the backbone of the Code itself.  That process included comments from more than 130 different organizations, while a further thirty anti-doping experts were involved as content producers on varying levels.  Countless meetings were held with athletes, USADA and other continental federations, the International Olympic Committe, IFs, The General Association of International Sports Federations, national governments, NADOs, NOCs, the European Commission, the Council of Europe, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), and WADA working committees.

The Code was always intended to be a living document, subject to periodic review and amendment, so as anti-doping evolves with changes science and growing experience, aspects of the Code could be changed.  

WADA initiated processes to review how the Code was working in 2006, 2009 and 2014.  The teams included senior experts from within WADA, as well as outside experts.

Areas that merited discussion and review included the definition of doping in terms of violations, criteria for prohibited substances and methods to be placed on list, and the role of investigations in the fight for clean sport.

The WADA Model

Now, a dozen years later, the Code is viewed almost universally as the gold standard in anti-doping thanks to the tireless work and input from stakeholders like USADA. Through each of the two sets of amendments, the rules have been made tougher for those who choose to cheat, and easier to navigate for clean athletes.  Highlighting its world-wide acceptance, more than 660 sport organizations are signatories to the Code, including the entire Olympic movement, and 177 governments who have accepted the Code through their ratification of the UNESCO Convention. 

The success of the Code is largely attributed to the incredibly collaborative process through which the Code was first adopted and amended.  While it is likely that no stakeholder would agree with every provision in the Code, all stakeholders can look at the Code and see their contributions incorporated into the document.