Wada's future in doubt as IOC ally blasts its Rio role

Anti-doping body fears that call to ban Russia will precipitate action to reduce its influence

LONDON • Fears are growing for the future of the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) amid concerns that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) wants to neuter, sideline or even replace it as punishment for calling for a blanket ban on Russian athletes at the Rio Olympics.

At a Wada think tank on Tuesday, there were open discussions about how the IOC was considering establishing an "integrity unit" responsible for corruption, match-fixing and anti-doping in a move that could be used to erode Wada's powers.

The organisation also came under a blistering attack from Gerardo Werthein, the Argentinian IOC member and president of the Argentinian Olympic Committee, who accused Wada of "letting down the sports movement" and attacking its "obvious efforts to blame major problems in the system on others".

CASTING A SHADOW OVER WADA

We have still not had an adequate explanation on why Wada did not act earlier on the situation in Russia when they had been fully alerted to the doping problem as early as 2010.

GERARDO WERTHEIN, president of the Argentinian Olympic Committee and the man who accused Wada of "letting down the sports movement".

WADA DID NO WRONG

Wada did exactly what it was supposed to do - which is bring recommendations against Russia - but one of the stakeholders didn't like them.

DICK POUND, former Wada president, who led an independent probe that exposed state-sponsored doping in Russia.

NO INCENTIVE TO SIDELINE WADA

The IOC doesn't do any testing, apart from at an Olympic Games. The IOC has expressed a wish that there should be an independent testing unit and we are working on that this week.

CRAIG REEDIE, Wada president, who is also an IOC member.

Werthein, an ally of the IOC president, Thomas Bach, also floated the idea of a "successor body" to Wada, which he said had failed in its duties.

"Despite the various inquiries which have been launched, we have still not had an adequate explanation on why Wada did not act earlier on the situation in Russia when they had been fully alerted to the doping problem as early as 2010," he said.

"Nor have we been provided with any serious analysis as to how Wada has let the sports movement and national governments spend major amounts of money on almost 300,000 tests per year and yet find so few of those who appear now to have been cheating."

But supporters of Wada believe that such attacks are a smokescreen to hide the real intention of the IOC - to discipline its independent anti-doping body for being too independent when it came to punishing Russia over state-sponsored doping.

They fear the IOC wants a more compliant anti-doping body that does not ruffle too many feathers or challenge its authority.

Wada came under a coordinated attack from IOC members in Rio before the Olympics over its calls for an outright ban on Russia.

Former Wada president Dick Pound, who led an independent commission report that revealed details of widespread state-sponsored Russian doping last November, told The Guardian: "I've always thought the IOC's attacks on Wada were a diversion to take everyone's mind off how the whole Russian situation has been bungled.

"Wada did exactly what it was supposed to do - which is bring recommendations against Russia - but one of the stakeholders didn't like them."

Craig Reedie, the Wada president who is also an IOC member and has come under fire from both sides, said he had repeatedly explained why Wada was not able to do more to tackle the Russian issue earlier and remains hopeful that the body will retain its clout and independence.

"I don't think there is any incentive for the IOC to sideline Wada. The IOC doesn't do any testing, apart from at an Olympic Games," he told The Guardian.

"The IOC has expressed a wish that there should be an independent testing unit and we are working on that this week.

"We need to work out whether this should be under the Wada banner or whether it should be a separate organisation - who will make use of it and who will fund it."

Further discussions on the future of the anti-doping movement are expected to take place between the IOC, Wada and other stakeholders at a special Olympic summit on Oct 8 in Lausanne.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 22, 2016, with the headline 'Wada's future in doubt as IOC ally blasts its Rio role'. Print Edition | Subscribe