Witold Banka is the President of the World Anti-Doping Organisation. WADA

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has expressed its deep concern following the arrest and dismissal of the Director General of the Tunisian National Anti-Doping Agency (ANAD) for trying to deal with the consequences of ANAD's non-compliance with the World Anti-Doping Code.

Tunisian prosecutors have arrested seven more sports officials over the absence of the national flag at a swimming competition on Friday. The heads of the Tunisian swimming federation and the national anti-doping agency were detained on Saturday after President Kais Saied reacted angrily to the absence of the flag.

In response, WADA warned the Tunisian National Anti-Doping Agency for the first time in November that it was not in compliance with international guidelines, but the local federation repeatedly failed to take the necessary measures to avoid being placed on the international watch list.

Tunisia has joined Angola's National Olympic Committee, the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) and the International Fitness and Bodybuilding Federation as the four currently non-compliant signatories to the Code. The African National Anti-Doping Organisation (NADO) has one outstanding critical corrective action related to its national legislation, which is not in compliance with the 2021 Code. 

Three days later, the Tunisian Ministry of Sport announced on Friday that it had issued a decree requiring compliance with the World Anti-Doping Code following sanctions imposed by the WADA. 

Kaïs Saied is the president of Tunis. WIKIPEDIA
Kaïs Saied is the president of Tunis. WIKIPEDIA

The decree was issued in response to sanctions imposed by WADA on Tuesday, including a ban on displaying the national flag at major sporting events, for Tunisia's failure to comply with the Code. In November, the agency gave Tunisia four months to address its concerns after the Executive Committee found the country in breach. 

Now, WADA has supported the efforts of ANAD and the International Federations to uphold the decision of the WADA Executive Committee to declare non-compliance in this case. Reports that the Director General of ANAD has been arrested for this purpose are a matter of grave concern. WADA calls for his immediate and unconditional release from custody and for all related charges to be dropped. 

Since the non-conformity in Tunisia was identified, WADA has been working closely with the authorities to ensure that the matter is resolved as quickly as possible. Indeed, excellent progress has been made in this regard, which makes this latest development all the more unfortunate and untimely. WADA remains confident that the matter will be resolved very soon.