Doping-WADA eager to work with U.S., dismisses U.S. doping agency threats

·3 min read
News conference of World Anti-Doping Agency in Lausanne

By Steve Keating

(Reuters) - The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) indicated on Friday it is eager to work with the United States on governance reforms but pushed back on demands from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) chief for faster change.

An outspoken critic of WADA, USADA head Travis Tygart warned this week that the world agency should take the fact that the United States has not yet paid its annual dues as a warning that it is prepared to follow through on threats to withhold funding until it sees action on reforms it wants implemented.

"Mr. Tygart, as far as I know, he does not speak for the U.S. government," said WADA president Witold Banka during a media briefing following a Friday meeting of the WADA Foundation Board. "We look forward to continuing to work with all stakeholders, including the U.S., on implementing governance reforms.

"We have made some important reforms in the recent times but our work is not finished yet."

In 2018, a WADA Congress recommended 70 governance reforms, including the addition of more independent members in decision-making positions to eliminate accusations of conflicts of interest. An interim report from a WADA working group said on Friday 49 of those had been fully implemented, 15 were ongoing and six were still to be addressed.

The U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) on Monday submitted a report to the Congress of the changes it wanted to see, which echoed many of those being implemented by WADA but which it felt had not gone far enough, such as more athlete representatives.

Regina LaBelle, the acting director of the ONDCP, took a less confrontational tone during Friday's meeting, while still urging WADA to push on with reforms.

She said the United States wants to see a restructuring of the powerful 14-member Executive Committee by reducing the number of Olympic movement representatives and public authorities and replacing them with athletes and anti-doping experts.

Tygart repeated that the United States, WADA's largest single contributor, wanted to see more action before WADA sees any money.

"The U.S. government has spoken loud and clear in the recent Congressional report; they expect to see reform to make WADA independent and strong for the dues to be paid," said Tygart.

USADA praised WADA's announcement that it was ready to roll out a new process of dried blood spot testing that will allow authorities to target more athletes and collect more samples, particularly in remote regions.

Dried blood spot testing is expected to be ready for routine use at the 2022 Beijing Winter Games.

WADA also provided an update on its investigation into doping among Russian athletes. It said it was still going through 50 cases described as high-priority, some of whom could be eligible to take part in the Tokyo Olympics in July and August.

"For sure those that concern athletes going to Tokyo Games would be dealt with before the Games, 100 percent," said WADA director general Olivier Niggli. "This is being followed day-by-day by our investigations department and our legal department in conjunction with the international federations."

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)

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