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‘Harsh,’ ‘disrespectful,’ but no bullying in WADA case


MONTREAL – Witnesses saw tears in Beckie Scott’s eyes following a meeting in which one man called her attitude “victimistic” and another questioned whether the athletes’ committee she led even needed to exist.

In the end, investigators looking into the meeting that left Scott “angry,” ”close to tears,” and ”shaky,” according to witnesses, determined that didn’t add up to bullying or harassment, but that certainly some of it could’ve been viewed as ”aggressive, harsh or disrespectful.”

Those were the key takeaways from the 58-page report the World Anti-Doping Agency released late Wednesday about an investigation into Scott’s complaint over how she was treated at a September 2018 board meeting in which WADA reinstated Russia’s banned anti-doping agency over her objections.

WADA said that with the release of the report, it “now considers the investigation to be closed.”

But this might not be the end.

In a statement given to The Associated Press after the report went public, Scott and U.S. Anti-Doping Agency chair Edwin Moses – whose own claims were also investigated and not corroborated in the report – “expressed their extreme disappointment” in what they termed a “whitewashing” of their claims.

Both refused to participate in the investigation, in part because the firm WADA hired to conduct it had done previous work for the agency. Even before the report was made public, the WADA athletes’ commission that Scott leads sent a letter to the executive committee supporting Scott’s decision not to participate and stating that “any report released under these circumstances will do incredible harm to athletes’ trust in WADA.”

The report, along with the unedited tapes from the executive committee meeting, offers a glimpse into how raw things have become between Scott and members of the International Olympic Committee who also sit on WADA’s executive committee.

The most tense back-and-forth came after Scott presented a report about a WADA athletes’ forum.

IOC member Patrick Baumann responded by saying “at least from my perspective, we don’t see that there is a need to replicate or mirror the IOC within WADA” – a presumptive slap at the athletes’ committee that Scott chairs.

A little later, IOC member Francesco Ricci Bitti said: “I was very surprised of Beckie’s attitude. Victimistic.” He called the WADA forum a platform to promote a certain position on Russia, and then rekindled a theme that gets to the very heart of the tension between athletes and the Olympic governing class.

“The athlete plays a good role but they have to keep their place as everybody,” Ricci Bitti said.

Later, Moses tore into Ricci Bitti and others who had been peppering Scott with questions.

“I think it is a very, very high-level and sophisticated game of passive-aggressive behaviour and they are taking (it) out on her and I don’t appreciate it,” he said.

Scott’s complaint named Baumann and Ricci Bitti. The report didn’t opine on Baumann’s response. It said that while Ricci Bitti’s “comments … could be viewed as aggressive, harsh or disrespectful, a reasonable person would not view them as threatening, intimidating or humiliating,” which was part of the definition of bullying established by the investigators.

Moses, meanwhile, had claimed he had been told to shut up at a previous WADA meeting. The investigation also looked into that claim and said it could not substantiate it.

In their statement, Scott and Moses listed a number of witnesses who refused to co-operate, including WADA vice-president Linda Helleland and Rune Andersen, an anti-doping expert who has done much of the work on Russia’s doping conspiracy in track and field.

Despite not finding bullying, the law firm did make four recommendations, which WADA said it would try to implement.

One was training executive committee members on best practices for boardroom dialogue.

“Gender differences can also play a role,” the report said. “In our witness interviews, for instance, we found that, on the whole, women reacted more strongly to the use of the word ‘victimistic’ than did men.”

It also said that because not all board members use English as their first language, misunderstandings can occur.

The investigators said they would have benefited from hearing from Scott and Moses but believed they got better information by not agreeing to the terms their lawyers had set.

They said their previous work with WADA didn’t present a conflict of interest because they had no relationship with Baumann, Ricci Bitti, Scott or Moses.

And they said the demands set by Scott and Moses “were features of a lawsuit, not an independent investigation.”

Copyright (c) 2019 The Canadian Press