Wada hits back as US threatens to withdraw funding

The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) has fired back at the latest US criticism of its governance following a report from the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) threatening to pull funding of the organisation.

The ONDCP is a component of the Executive Office of the US President which works to reduce drug use and its consequences by leading and coordinating the development, implementation, and assessment of US drug policy.

The US is the largest single contributor to Wada’s annual budget,  paying over $2.7m (€2.4m) towards this year’s figure of $37.4m (€33.3m/£30m). Half of that total is accounted for by contributions from the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The ONDCP report contains a series of recommendations to the US Congress which are critical of Wada, in particular focusing on its handling of the Russian doping scandal and its use of taxpayers money.

“The United States Government has a duty to ensure that American taxpayer dollars are spent effectively for the purpose to which they are appropriated,” the report said, according to the Reuters news agency. “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.”

In April, Wada completed its investigation into 298 Russian athletes, with its independent Intelligence and Investigations (I&I) team having provided detailed case packages to 28 anti-doping organisations (ADOs), including 27 international federations (IFs) and one major event organisation.

Wada said that 153 of the 298 cases handed over would be unaffected by the alleged manipulation that resulted in a non-compliance case being brought by Wada against the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (Rusada), which in December led to Wada upholding a recommendation for Russia to be banned from the international sports community for four years. Russia’s appeal against the punishment is set to be heard by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) from November 2-5.

“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,” the ONDCP report added. “However, the U.S. Government will not rely merely on hope but will continue to insist upon structural reform of Wada and closely scrutinise.”

The report is the latest step in ongoing US efforts to reshape the global anti-doping effort. The Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act, named after whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov who helped uncover Russia’s state-sponsored doping system, is currently progressing through the U.S. House and Senate and if adopted would give the Department of Justice the power to prosecute those found to be defrauding sport through doping.

Wada has claimed the ONDCP report contains a number of inaccuracies, including that the US is under-represented on its boards and committees. “Wada cannot be governed solely by the few richest countries,” Wada told Reuters.

“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.”

The US currently has a seat on Wada’s Foundation Board, but no representation on the Executive Committee, 17-member senior management team or the 12-member Athletes Committee. Wada added: “The notion that countries should be represented in proportion to the amount of money they provide makes no sense.

“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 U.S. Congress come from just the wealthiest states?”