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Dope Wars: US Threatens To Pull WADA Funding As Bickering Over ONDCP Report Escalates

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) released a report which is highly critical of WADA’s conduct, particularly regarding their handling of an investigation into the Russian doping scandal in 2015. WADA themselves have condemned the ONDCP report, calling it fundamentally flawed and suggested it was written with the specific aim of discrediting the agency.
An ONDCP report has accused WADA of disregarding and protecting its own bottom line when conducting investigations into systemic doping.

An ONDCP report has accused WADA of disregarding and protecting its own bottom line when conducting investigations into systemic doping.

Reports released by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) suggest that the United States has threatened to pull out from funding the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) unless it immediately adopts serious reform.  

Travis Tygart, the head of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) said that unless WADA ‘changes its way of doing business’ the agency could soon find itself out of funding and out of business.

The 19-page report accessed by Reuters concluded that the US was underrepresented on WADA's key policy-making committees, that WADA has not moved urgently enough to reform itself in the wake of the Russian doping scandal and that Congress should consider giving the office discretion to withhold future funding.

“This report reveals that WADA is, at a minimum, incompetent when dealing with serious, endemic corruption, and that it disregards even its own investigators to protect its bottom line,” said Jim Walden, the attorney for Russian whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov.

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The US is the largest single contributor to WADA and paid over $2.7 million to the 2020 budget of $37.4 million -- half came from the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

“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 contains details on WADA’s investigation into the Russian doping scandal that started in 2015. The WADA-commissioned report elaborated state sponsored doping among Russian athletes. Russia is currently appealing a four-year ban on competing under its flag at major sporting events including the Olympics. 

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The ban was instigated last year after WADA discovered that Moscow has provided the anti doping agency with doctored laboratory data. 

“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 report read.

Regardless, the US government is determined in asking for a structural reform of WADA and has made the decision to closely scrutinize their moves. 


Tygart, one of WADA’s ferocious critics, labelled the report a  ‘wakeup call’ for the agency to change the way they are doing business before they start losing funding.

WADA themselves have condemned the ONDCP report, calling it fundamentally flawed. “It is very unfortunate that the report was written without due regard for the facts or context and with the clear intention to discredit WADA,” WADA said in an email to Reuters.

The Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act -- named in the honor of Rodchenkov who helped expose the Russian’s state sponsored doping in 2016 -- has been currently moving through the US House and Senate.

Should the bill be passed, it would give the US Department of Justice power to prosecute those defrauding sports through doping just like FIFA officials were punished for corruption in football.

Tygart has expressed concerns over the fact that Russian officials not only orchestrated state-sponsored doping and escaped but in some cases have also been rewarded.

The USADA chief pointed towards the recent investigation into the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) where former President Tamas Ajan has been accused of covering up dozens of doping cases.

“Russia is the prime example and we have another one that just hit us….which is the weightlifting federation,” Tygart said. “Its president not only misappropriated $10.5 million but also covered up over 40 doping cases that robbed clean athletes around the world.”

“And what happens when he gets caught? He simply retires. He’s probably on some beach sipping cocktails right now,” he added. 

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