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US warns WADA to mind its own business

US warns WADA to mind its own business

The WADA logo is pictured at the Russkaya Zima (Russian Winter) Athletics competition in Moscow on Feb 9, 2020. (Photo: AFP/Kirill Kudryavtsev)

WASHINGTON: The United States warned the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to keep out of its sovereign affairs on Thursday, refusing to remove the threat of pulling funding from the body unless reforms it demands are enacted.

Both WADA and US officials expressed the need for cooperation and dialogue during a virtual Foundation Board meeting but it was clear WADA is taking the threat seriously, saying it had prepared two budgets for 2021, one that includes US funding and another that does not.

Believing the US threat exposed gaps in the WADA Code, the executive committee and Foundation Board discussed possible sanctions to member countries for unilaterally withdrawing agreed funding, further angering the US.

A White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) report in June recommended the US Congress hold back funding unless it receives a greater voice in WADA decision making and reforms immediately implemented.

"The United States strongly opposes any attempt to amend the Code to penalise public authorities that decide to withdraw funds from WADA," ONDCP spokesperson Anthony Jones told the Foundation Board.

"We see it as a personal attack on the United States and it would be contrary to WADA's stated desire to improve relationships with the United States government.

"The WADA 2021 Code has not even come into effect yet, yet WADA is seeking to revise the Code to single out the United States government.

"We view this as an affront to the sovereignty of the law of public authorities and it would undermine the legitimate authority of governments to independently evaluate whether to spend public funds."

The WADA budget for 2021 was set at US$43.4 million, chief financial officer Dao Chung outlining two scenarios, one including the US contribution of US$2.9 million and one without.

If the US does follow through on its threat, Chung said it would force WADA to make cuts but hoped to mitigate any losses with additional contributions from public authorities.

The US used the meeting to air a long list of grievances ranging from WADA's concerns over the Rodchenkov Act, now waiting approval in the US Senate, to former WADA boss Dick Pound being named an honorary president.

WADA has expressed concern that the Rodchenkov Act, named after the whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov who helped expose Russia's state-sponsored doping, could destabilise the global anti-doping effort while giving US professional and college athletes a free pass.

"The major leagues and college sports the majority of US athletes around 80 to 90 per cent are outside the WADA regulatory regime and anti-doping Code requirements," WADA president Witold Banka said.

"I am concerned these athletes will not be covered by the Rodchenkov Act, that was made possible by an initial amendment to the bill."

The ONDCP, however, sees WADA's comments as nothing more than meddling in US affairs.

"The United States advises against WADA's continued opposition to the Rodchenkov," Jones said. "We duly oppose WADA's interference in the affairs of a sovereign nation."

Source: Reuters

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