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Whistleblowing in the sport sector by Sir Anthony Hooper, QC

My view on whistleblowing is that it is a worldwide problem, and in a commissioned Protect report, ( ‘Report on the effectiveness of existing arrangements for workplace whistleblowing in the UK’) gives recommendations about how whistleblowers should be treated.

Whistleblowing plays a vital role in the achievement of good governance in sport as in every other governmental or non-governmental organisation. It is my view that whistleblowing is a worldwide problem. In a commissioned Protect report the then Chair wrote in her forward to ( ‘Report on the effectiveness of existing arrangements for workplace whistleblowing in the UK’) :“Effective whistleblowing arrangements are a key part of good governance. A healthy and open culture is one where people are encouraged to speak out, confident that they can do so without adverse repercussions, confident that they will be listened to, and confident that appropriate action will be taken. This is to the benefit of organisations, individuals and society as a whole.”

Recent scandals in sports show once again that whistleblowers play a vital role in uncovering wrongdoing and that they are likely to suffer seriously detrimental consequences from those on whom the whistle has been blown.

The findings by a Court of Arbitration for Sport appellate panel (CAS) and in various reports prepared for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have demonstrated wide spread state sponsored doping in Russia. Without the revelations of four Russian whistle blowers, two of whom were athletes and two involved with testing, it seems likely that the world would have known nothing of what, according to these findings, has been going on in Russia.

In the first WADA Independent Commission Report, dated November 9, 2015, the authors wrote: ‘Concurrent with the enforced silence/omerta imposed, when those [persons] involved in doping activities are exposed, they almost invariably attempt to attack, discredit, marginalize and intimidate any whistleblowers. It is well known that many sport organizations treat whistleblowers more harshly than they treat the dopers on whom they inform. Whistleblowers know this, but they are nevertheless willing to endure such treatment.

Those who are, or have been, dopers may revolt against the system of which they have been part. Those who may have been caught and sanctioned may also hope to achieve a reduction in whatever sanction may have been imposed.

Those words sound very familiar to those involved with the protection and support of whistleblowers, like Protect.

One of the first important whistleblowers in point of time was Lilya Shobukhova, a world class and very successful marathon runner. Her revelations to WADA and to the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) in early 2014 directly led to an order by the IAAF Ethics Commission suspending the President of the Russian Athletic Federation, a Russian long distance coach and the son of the president of the IAAF ‘’for life from any further involvement in any way in the sport of track and field”. An IAAF official was also suspended for five years. The life suspension orders were upheld on appeal by CAS. The IAAF official did not appeal.

The good work of Protect has a key role in helping to transform the culture of whistleblowing in sport.

Sir Anthony Hooper, QC, has investigated corruption for the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF)