New UN-backed agreement set to ensure clean, drug-free sport

The UN World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) have boosted their support for drug-free sport through a four-year agreement signed on Monday in Geneva.

The memorandum of understanding (MOU) allows experts from both international organizations to collaborate and share information on issues where anti-doping and public health intersect.

It provides a framework to further goals on health promotion, the prevention of substance abuse and emerging drugs – and for encouraging clean and fair competition.

WADA President Witold Banka described the agreement as “a watershed moment that will benefit anti-doping efforts worldwide.”

One of the three criteria for a substance to be added to its prohibited list is if it presents an actual or potential health risk to athletes, he explained.

“Through our agreement with WHO, experts from both organizations will be able to work collaboratively to exchange information on emerging substances and reinforce scientific positions that will ultimately benefit not only athletes, but society as a whole,” he said.

For his part, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus underscored how competitive sport inspires people everywhere to be more active, thus contributing to good health.

“The use of performance-enhancing substances can harm athletes, and certainly harms sport and those who look up to athletes as role-models. Keeping sport clean, therefore, has benefits beyond the sporting arena for the health and well-being of individuals and societies everywhere,” he said.

The MOU, which runs until October 2027, covers themes that include prevention and assessment of health risks associated with psychoactive substance use and related disorders.

The partners will raise awareness through education initiatives with the support of goodwill ambassadors and influencers to drive positive change.

They will address sub-standard and falsified medical products, including identification of new emerging psychoactive drugs through sharing of information, mutual support, and engagement with sport federations.

Furthermore, they will report on abuse and misuse of falsified and sub-standard medical products in sport.

The MOU also aligns with both organizations’ common objective towards ensuring healthy lives and well-being for all people, which is based on the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by world leaders in 2015.

Agenda 2030 provides a blueprint for a more just and equitable future that benefits both people and the natural environment.

By Nadeem Faisal Baiga