US funding threat to WADA if no reform

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Washington (AFP)

A US government study has recommended that US lawmakers be given the power to withhold funding to the World Anti-Doping Agency if the global drugs watchdog fails to implement governance reforms.

In a 19-page report, the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy lambasted WADA over its response to the Russian doping affair, saying the agency had failed to hold Moscow to account for the scandal.

"The Russian doping scandal continues to demonstrate inadequacies in WADA's independence and capacity to firmly, effectively, and in a timely manner enforce compliance with the Code, hold major countries accountable under the rules and uphold the expectations of clean athletes," the report said.

"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," the report concluded.

The United States provides $2.7 million in funding to WADA each year, making it the largest single government contributor to the agency's funding.

However the ONDCP study questioned whether the United States was receiving value for money for its contribution.

"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.

"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 report said WADA's governance should be reformed to include independent athlete and anti-doping representatives on its committees and decision-making bodies.

The study also called for WADA's leadership to be "free from undue influence by sports organisations with a direct financial interest in WADA decisions."

"This can be accomplished by reducing the number of sport organization representatives in current governance, policymaking, or executive positions within sport organizations on WADA committees and decision-making bodies," the study concluded.

The United States Anti-Doping Agency has long criticised WADA's governance structure, questioning whether the organisation can operate independently with so many sports federation officials and International Olympic Committee members wielding influence within the agency.

The ONDCP report also called for representation on WADA's foundation board and executive committee to be linked to the size of financial contributions, increasing the number of representatives from the United States.

"ONDCP should have the explicit authority to withhold and/or decrease funding if WADA fails to meet basic standards for effectiveness, independence, transparency, and responsiveness to the athlete voice, and fails to promote US representation commensurate with the United States' financial contributions to WADA," the study found.

"The authority to reduce or withhold funding is a powerful tool that could incentivize WADA to adopt reforms to achieve the purposes for which it was created and prevent similar Russian-type scandals from re-occurring."