Olympic ban waved at USA

TORONTO • America's top athletes could be banned from the Olympic Games and other major international sporting events if the United States follows through on its threat to withdraw funding from the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada), anti-doping leaders told Reuters.

The threat has sent shockwaves through the anti-doping community and prompted several governments to urge Wada to introduce legislation that would find the US non-compliant with the Wada Code, effectively barring American athletes from international competition.

"We have been approached by a number of governments of the world that were shocked by the threats from the US government supported by Usada (United States Anti-Doping Agency)," Wada chief Witold Banka told Reuters.

"These governments want us to consider an amendment to the compliance standard, meaning that non-payment by a government of its Wada contribution could lead directly to that country's Nado (National Anti-Doping Organisation) being declared non-compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code."

Wada's executive committee could discuss the requests for the rule amendment this month, when officials meet on Sept 14 and 15. But any formal decision would also need to be considered by Wada's compliance review committee.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) rules stipulate there needs to be Wada compliance to allow Games participation.

Usada president Travis Tygart fired back by labelling the Wada threat empty and illegal.

"To threaten one country's athletes over Wada's failed governance model is pretty remarkable and disappointing," he told Reuters.

"They ought to spend the time trying to fix and make Wada what the world wants it to be, which is a strong, independent Wada."

A report by the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), presented to the US Congress in June, was highly critical of Wada, demanding that it implement immediate reforms.

The US is the largest single contributor to Wada, paying over US$2.7 million (S$3.6 million) into the 2020 budget of US$37.4 million. Half of Wada's funding comes from the IOC.

Even without an amendment to Wada's rules, an unprecedented move to cut funding could trigger a messy non-compliance issue and leave American athletes in limbo.

Those aiming to qualify for major competitions would have problems because, even if they were not directly sanctioned by Usada's compliance status, they could have difficulty demonstrating a clean record.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2020, with the headline 'Olympic ban waved at USA'. Subscribe