A nine-strong World Anti-Doping Agency Independent Observer team will head to the 2022 Winter Olympics with five selected to go to the Paralympics in Beijing ©Getty Images

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has announced its Independent Observer teams for the 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in Beijing.

A combination of WADA staff, anti-doping experts and other specialists within the field have been selected to provide an independent review of all aspects of the anti-doping programmes due to be carried out in the Chinese capital.

A nine-strong team has been chosen for the Winter Olympics, due to take place between February 4 and 20, with five picked for the Paralympics as WADA aims to "protect the integrity of the system".

Each day during the Games, Independent Observer team members are set to visit various venues to observe how the anti-doping programme is being implemented.

Test distribution planning, the work of chaperones, how the doping control officers are operating in collecting samples and how they are being stored and delivered for analysis will be among the areas being checked by the teams.

They will also be tasked with assessing how the laboratory is carrying out the analysis process, the application of the Therapeutic Use Exemption procedure and the results management system.

The group are due to meet daily to go through their reports and flag any issues or potential improvement points.

While in Beijing, the teams will also be expected to work with the International Testing Agency, which is operating the Olympic Games anti-doping programme on behalf of the International Olympic Committee, and with the International Paralympic Committee.

The WADA Independent Observer teams are expected to check how the laboratory in Beijing is carrying out the analysis process ©Getty Images
The WADA Independent Observer teams are expected to check how the laboratory in Beijing is carrying out the analysis process ©Getty Images

WADA promised regular feedback will be provided so that the process can be strengthened in real time, while consolidated post-Games reports will formalise recommendations.

Hitesh Patel, head of music, publishing and copyright at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport for the United Kingdom Government and rapporteur to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) International Conference against Doping in Sport, will chair the Independent Observer team at the Olympics.

Canada’s Karine Henrie, deputy director for testing at WADA, has been chosen as vice-chair.

The other WADA staff heading to the Olympics are American Thierry Boghosian, senior manager for laboratory accreditation, Canada’s Ying Cui, manager for National and Regional Anti-Doping Organisation relations, Brazil’s Vinicius Sardela, manager of laboratory operations and former Belgian badminton player Yuhan Tan, who is medical doctor and member of the Athlete Committee.

They will be joined by American Stephen Bock, head of legal and general counsel at the International Volleyball Federation, Japan’s Chika Hirai, general manager of international relations for the Japan Anti-Doping Agency and Switzerland’s Alexis Webber, head of anti-doping for FIFA.

Shafag Huseynli, chief executive of the Azerbaijan National Anti-Doping Agency, will chair the team going to the Paralympics, scheduled to take place between March 4 and 13. 

Italy’s Ilaria Baudo, senior manager of testing for WADA, named as vice-chair.

WADA director general Olivier Niggli said he was determined to ensure athletes benefit from the
WADA director general Olivier Niggli said he was determined to ensure athletes benefit from the "best anti-doping program at the Games" ©Getty Images

Baudo will be part of a team that features fellow WADA staff members Egypt’s Sameh Elray, manager for the Africa office and El Salvadorian rower Adriana Escobar, member of the Athlete Committee, as well as Britain’s Mike Earl, general manager for anti-doping at World Rugby.

"For the past 21 years, WADA IO teams have contributed to protect the integrity of the system at various major events around the world," said Olivier Niggli, director general for WADA.

"The teams selected for Beijing 2022 represent a range of anti-doping professionals and athletes, all driven by a sense of fair play and the desire to make sure the athletes can benefit from the best anti-doping programme at the Games.

"In what is a very effective mix of disciplines, the teams include experts in the fields of athlete representation, laboratories, medicine, science, testing, anti-doping policy, international relations and legal affairs."