Wada refutes U.S. claims

Americans threaten to withdraw funding in bid to pressure anti-doping body to reform

MONTREAL • The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) said on Wednesday it cannot be ruled over by the world's richest countries, returning fire after the United States threatened to pull funding from the agency unless it undertook major reforms.

Wada again found itself defending its response to the long-running Russian doping scandal, with the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) sending a highly critical report to Congress, which has questioned the anti-doping agency's use of US taxpayer money.

The US is the largest single contributor to Wada, paying just over US$2.7 million (S$3.76 million) to the 2020 budget of US$37.4 million, half of which comes from the International Olympic Committee.

Wada immediately condemned the ONDCP report, complaining that it was riddled with factual errors and misleading statements, including a claim that the US is under-represented on Wada boards and committees.

"Wada cannot be governed solely by the few richest countries," it said in an e-mail.

"Athletes who compete against US athletes come from all over the globe and in fairness to US athletes, we want to ensure their competitors are subject to the same stringent rules as they are.

"To make sure that happens, there needs to be representation from all regions of the world."

While the US does have a seat on Wada's foundation board, it has no representative on the powerful executive committee nor is there an American on the 17-member senior management team or the 12-member athletes committee.

"The notion that countries should be represented in proportion to the amount of money they provide makes no sense," said Wada.

"To allocate seats exclusively to the highest funders would eliminate the majority of nations of the world from ever holding a seat on Wada's board or exco and would not be in line with international best practice.

"Would Americans support having all members of the US Congress come from just the wealthiest states?"

Yet Travis Tygart, the head of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (Usada), has warned Wada that if it does not "change its way of doing business", the agency could soon find itself out of funding and out of business.

The 19-page report details Wada's investigations into the Russian doping saga that began in 2015 when a Wada-commissioned report detailed state-sponsored doping in Russian athletics.

Russia is appealing against a four-year ban from competing under its flag at international sporting events, including the Olympics.

"ONDCP hopes that Wada's new leadership will implement necessary reforms to repair the damage done to Wada's reputation and credibility in the wake of the Russian doping scandal," read the ONDCP report.

"However, the US government will not rely merely on hope but will continue to insist upon structural reform of Wada and closely scrutinise."

Tygart, one of Wada's fiercest critics, labelled the report another "wake-up call". He is unhappy that Russian officials, who orchestrated state-sponsored doping, have not only been allowed to escape punishment but in some cases have also been rewarded.

He pointed to the recent investigation into the International Weightlifting Federation, whose former president Tamas Ajan was found to have covered up dozens of doping cases.

"Russia is the prime example and we have another one that just hit us... which is the weightlifting federation," Tygart said.

"Its president not only misappropriated US$10.5 million but also covered up over 40 doping cases that robbed clean athletes around the world. What happens when he gets caught? He simply retires. He's probably on some beach sipping cocktails right now."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 26, 2020, with the headline 'Wada refutes U.S. claims'. Print Edition | Subscribe