WADA Hits Back At USA Threat To Withdraw Funding If It Fails To Implement Governance Reforms

What poisons the water - Image Courtesy: SwimSketch

The World Anti-Doping Agency  – WADA – has accused the U.S. Government of bypassing facts and context when threatening to withdraw its $2.7 million annual funding from the global Fair Play watchdog if it fails to implement recommended governance reforms.

In a 19-page report released this week and outlined by the Washington Post yesterday, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) slams WADA over its handling of the Russian doping crisis that erupted in 2014 after  evidence of systematic doping was uncovered by British media outlets and the ARD TV’s doping investigations team.

The issue was highlighted in a White House briefing on May 20 that cited the recommendations for governance changes by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). The ONDCP has echoed USADA’s call for reform to include independent athlete and anti-doping representatives on its committees and decision-making bodies.

WADA responded by noting that the United States had greater representation in WADA governance – with 11 representatives – than any other nation, and that status had been maintained by the United States since WADA’s formation.

The ONDCP, WADA opined, had failed to hold Russia accountable, despite a fresh 4-year sanction being imposed on the country last December in response to the manipulation of data related to thousands of doping tests.

RUSADA appealed the WADA to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on December 27. A decision is pending, as noted in this Swimming World report: Why The Russian Flag Flies Yet In Sport: WADA Sanction On Hold In RUSADA Appeal Process.

The CAS hearing will unfold in November this year. 

More on that topic:

  • Russia Sports Minister Wants Olympic Ban Dropped So Sports Can “Be Together” In Coronavirus Crisis
  • World Swimming Coaches Lambast Russia For Using Coronavirus As A Plea Bargain In Doping Ban

The ONDCP explains its reasoning in a short report that concludes: “America’s athletes, as well as all of the world’s clean athletes, need and deserve our urgent intervention to make WADA independent of conflicts of interests, more effective in protecting clean athletes, and more capable of standing up against institutionalized doping.”

WADA Says Threat Is First Word From U.S. Government In 20 Years

WADA, however, noted in a response:

“It is very unfortunate that the report was written without due regard for the facts or context and with the clear intention to discredit WADA. It is beyond WADA’s comprehension that such a report is produced when representatives from the US Government have never raised any of these concerns around the table of the WADA Foundation Board table over the past 20 years.”

The ONDCP’s focus on WADA bypasses the key role the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) have in setting the governance culture of global Olympic sport. The United States’ National Olympic Committee receives no funding from the United States government, though it does contribute to the structures that underpin the success the United States enjoys in Olympic sport.

The Funders League

The United States tops the single-nation league of contributors to WADA, while Europe, which organises payments through the Council of Europe and the European Union, is by far the biggest contributor to WADA funds, its nations combined sums amounting to 47.5% of all support from governments around the world. The IOC matches government funding, the total 2020 support for WADA amounting to $37.4 million, $18.7 million of that from governments.

The top government contributors to WADA funding:

The ONDCP’s report notes: “The United States Government has a duty to ensure that American taxpayer dollars are spent effectively for the purpose to which they are appropriated. American taxpayers should receive a tangible return on their investment in WADA in the form of clean sport, fair play, effective administration of the world anti-doping system and a proportionate voice in WADA decision-making.”

The proportion of contributions to WADA (in brackets, the % of populations):

  • Africa – 0.5% (17.20%)
  • Americas – 29% (13.13%)
  • Asia – 20.46% (59.54%)
  • Europe – 47.5% (9.59%)
  • Oceania – 2.54% (0.55%)

WADA believes that wealth of nations should not mean they have more sway over WADA. That Russia contributes $1m a year is, some observers, argue, a bigger issue when it comes to the notion of ‘the bigger the contribution, the bigger the influence’. That scenario not only applies to Russia.

Last December, WADA published an annual report that showed a 13% increase year on year in doping cases globally. The figures, which always lag the year, pertained to 2017.  There were 1,804 cases of violations of anti-doping rules, up from 1,595 in 2016, from 93 sports in 114 countries.

The top three offenders were Italy (171), France (128) and the United States (103), with Brazil (84) and Russia (82) following. The top 10 was completed by China (62), India (57), Belgium (54), Spain (52) and South Africa (43).

The worst-offending sports: bodybuilding (266 cases), followed by athletics (242) and cycling (218).


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