White House, WADA fight over anti-doping funding puts U.S. athletes in middle

“The consequences of a withdrawal of WADA funding by the U.S. could be more severe and far-reaching for American athletes,” Banka told Reuters, which first reported on the development Thursday.

At issue is a June report from the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) that urged Congress to withdraw its funding if WADA fails to take on serious reform measures and give U.S. officials greater representation on its decision-making bodies.

President Trump’s drug policy office contends that the U.S. government is the single largest contributor to WADA, giving $2.7 million annually, and that “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.”

Lawmakers haven’t publicly commented on the ONDCP report, but the funding threat sent shock waves through the international doping community this summer. Dick Pound, the WADA founder and the longest-serving IOC member, called it “inexplicable.” In a statement Friday, Banka said he “will never let clean athletes become hostages of political games.”

“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,” Banka said. “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.”

While Banka and WADA have previously rebuked the ONDCP report, this week’s warning was the first time the organization suggested American athletes might be negatively impacted.

“Their priorities are obviously backward,” Travis Tygart, chief executive of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and an outspoken WADA critic, said in a telephone interview. “They’re threatening U.S. athletes not to compete without legal basis, yet allowing athletes from a Russian state-sponsored doping system to compete — we’re living in a twilight zone.”

“Nobody wants the money to be cut,” he continued, “but throwing good money after bad into WADA’s pocketbook makes no sense until reform is achieved that allows them to be a strong and independent regulator and not the political monster that they’ve become.”

The ONDCP provided a statement, attributed to an unnamed official, pushing back against WADA’s “threats.”

“ONDCP is committed to work with WADA to foster organizational reform that includes increased transparency and greater accountability to the nations like the United States that finance WADA’s operations,” the statement reads. “It’s a goal shared by athletes and athletic organizations around the world, and one that should be shared by WADA. Threats from WADA to exclude athletes from competition who train their entire lives for the privilege of engaging in Olympic sport does not advance these goals, and only reinforces the perception that WADA puts politics over players.”

While many international competitions have been canceled or postponed this year in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the Olympics are scheduled

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