U.S. In Focus As WADA Calls For Unity To Protect Clean Athletes

2020-09-04 Reading Time: 3 minutes
Witold Bańka, head of WADA - courtesy, WADA

Governments funding the World Anti-Doping Agency – WADA – and concerned about United States threats to withdraw financial support have asked the global clean-sport watchdog to consider changing its rules to allow sanctions to be imposed on nations that do not meet the International Standard for Code Compliance by Signatories.

The move comes at a time of acrimony between the Trump administration and WADA. In June, WADA issued a statement to say that it was “deeply disappointed to read the United States Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Report regarding WADA funding that it submitted to the U.S. Congress on 17 June and that was made public.”

Today, WADA President Witold Bańka called for unity and made clear that while WADA stands “ready to work with the U.S. Government” and is hopeful that U.S. funding will continue, the American challenge had “highlighted the need for more commitment and accountability within the clean sport community.” He added:

“The only way to preserve the global system is for everyone involved to stand united and work together to make it stronger.”

In June, WADA noted: As the U.S. has been a Foundation Board member of WADA since the creation of the Agency in 1999, WADA was particularly troubled by the fact that the ONDCP made allegations towards the Agency without due regard for the facts or context and without having raised any of these concerns during WADA Board meetings.”

WADA then sent an annotated version of the ONDCP Report to the Director of the ONDCP, “asking him to kindly transmit this version to the U.S. Congress so that the Congress, and/or the appropriations committee, can deliberate and decide on WADA’s future funding based on accurate information”.

This annotated version outlined “the misleading information and inaccuracies that the Report contains, and what the Report omits in terms of factual information.”

Today, WADA has issued the following Statement:

Ahead of a meeting of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Executive Committee on 14-15 September, several representatives of the Governments of the world contacted WADA to express their concerns relative to threats from the United States Government to withdraw funding from the Agency if WADA did not fulfill a number of conditions.

These Governments have identified what they consider to be a weakness in the rules whereby a Government can unilaterally refuse to meet its agreed funding commitments without facing any significant consequences. They feel that what is happening with the U.S. Government could create a negative precedent internationally that could be replicated and would jeopardize the entire global anti-doping system. 

As a result, these Governments have asked WADA to look at the possibility of amending its rules so that nations which go against the principles of the UNESCO Convention Against Doping in Sport in this way would potentially trigger sanctions under the International Standard for Code Compliance by Signatories.  

WADA President Witold Bańka said:

“This matter has been raised by some concerned Governments, not by WADA’s leadership, and as is the case with any proposal raised by a stakeholder, WADA has an obligation to consider it carefully. We will examine the rules to see if they need to be strengthened in light of the current situation. As always, due process will be followed and this will be a matter for discussion and consultation. 

“My focus remains absolutely on the welfare of athletes and, for their sakes, we must continue to protect the anti-doping system that has served clean athletes. Fairness for athletes all over the world remains my number-one priority. I will never let clean athletes become hostages of political games. Under the International Standard for Code Compliance by Signatories there are many possible consequences that do not impact the athletes.

“In this critical time for anti-doping, we need unity, not division. I still stand ready to work with the U.S. Government on this and I am hopeful that it will continue to contribute to the global anti-doping program. But what our stakeholders are telling us is that this episode has highlighted the need for more commitment and accountability within the clean sport community. The only way to preserve the global system is for everyone involved to stand united and work together to make it stronger.”

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