Norwegian rower Kjetil Borch published on Monday, 1 November 2021 on his personal Instagram account various issues about situations that happened during the season related to anti-doping and advertising rules. Every athlete has the right to express his or her opinions and we encourage any open and constructive dialogue. Nevertheless, the Executive Committee believes it is its duty to communicate factually about the information relating to the situations described.
In his post, Kjetil Borch raised the subject of the violation of the Commercial Publicity, Sponsorship, Advertising and Identifications Rules that led to his relegation at the 2021 World Rowing Cup III in Sabaudia, Italy. Mr. Borch has violated these rules on three previous occasions at World Rowing events, from 2018 to 2021 (2018 European Championships, 2018 World Championships and 2021 World Rowing Cup I). Mr. Borch was informed and notified twice in writing and once verbally in a Zoom meeting with the World Rowing Athletes Commission Chair and the Executive Director. The Executive Committee twice gave him the chance to explain his actions and, based on his explanations, decided that a warning was the appropriate sanction in these cases: but with a strong statement that any further violations would result in penalties, no longer warnings. As a consequence, the violation in Sabaudia at the World Rowing Cup III resulted in a relegation.
The Executive Committee believed it was now appropriate to apply the relegation sanction to Mr. Borch after the multiple explanations and warnings. It should also be mentioned that the Executive Committee expressly did not apply this penalty to Mr Borch’s seeding position for Tokyo and considered his sport result for seeding him in first position.
Mr. Borch also discusses his anti-doping experience at the 2021 World Rowing Cup I in Zagreb. It is important to note here that, as announced at the end of 2020 and in order to create full independence in the operation of its anti-doping programme and testing, all World Rowing anti-doping activities have been delegated to an independent organisation, the International Testing Agency (ITA – https://ita.sport/ ), as many other international sport federations decided to do. Furthermore, all anti-doping hearings and decisions are now assigned to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, Anti-Doping Division ( https://www.tas-cas.org/en/add/arbitration-rules-cas-add.html ).
As a result of these changes, World Rowing has no operational role in anti-doping testing at events. In the case of World Rowing Cup I in Zagreb, the Croatian Anti-Doping Agency was given the responsibility to carry out in-competition testing and their local staff and volunteers performed the testing operations.
Mr. Borch mentions that World Rowing gave him a warning in Zagreb and requested an apology, but does not explain the reason why World Rowing requested such an apology related to this testing. The reason was that he had published a photo on social media of an OC member, a Croatian medical doctor and former rower, helping the anti-doping operations of the OC, without his agreement. To protect the personal rights of this individual in the photo, World Rowing asked Mr. Borch to remove the photo and to apologise.
World Rowing and, in particular, the Athletes Commission, has done its best to discuss the issues addressed directly and collaboratively with Mr. Borch and the Norwegian Rowing Federation. It is also important to note that the World Rowing Member Federations decide on the Rules of Racing and assign World Rowing the duty to carry out the application of the rules equally to all participants of World Rowing events. This responsibility is taken seriously by all officials at World Rowing events. World Rowing Council, Commission and Staff members are always available for questions, feedback and engagement from rowers and member federations directly.
A complete response to Mr. Borch’s statements can be found here (updated 5 November 2021).
A letter from the World Rowing Athletes Commission can be found here.
World Rowing Executive Committee