May 18, 2021
By Steve Keating
(Reuters) – The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said on Monday it is pushing ahead with many reforms recommended by the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) but hit back by urging the United States to get its own doping house in order.
Ahead of WADA Executive Committee and Foundation Board meetings this week the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee Athletes’ Advisory Council (USOPC AAC) issued a joint statement renewing calls for WADA to pick up the pace of governance reform efforts.
The ONDCP’s most recent, 32-page report released on Monday and submitted to the U.S. Congress acknowledged progress but wanted to see more.
“As we detail in this report, some progress has been made in reforming WADA; however, WADA and its stakeholders still have much more work to do” said the ONDCP report.
WADA President Witold Banka said he will meet with Regina LaBelle, the acting director of the ONDCP, during Friday’s Foundation Board meeting and will invite her to play a leading role in the formation of an independent Ethics Board.
But Banka is also likely to press the United States to get serious about doping at home where he says 90% of athletes do not compete under the WADA Code.
“WADA takes note that the ONDCP recognizes the hard work and considerable progress achieved by the Agency during the past year,” said Banka in a statement. “WADA continues to offer its support to the U.S. government, the ONDCP and the United States Anti-Doping Agency in their efforts to strengthen the fight against doping in their country.
“Currently, approximately 90% of American athletes do not compete under the terms of the World Anti-Doping Code, with the main professional leagues and college sports so far operating outside that protection.”
Under the Trump administration the United States had threatened to withhold WADA funding unless certain conditions and reforms were met, including greater U.S. representation on decision-making bodies.
WADA told Reuters that U.S. dues are up to date but that the agency has not heard if the country intends to withhold future contributions.
USADA and its chief, Travis Tygart, have been vocal critics of WADA, particularly its handling of the Russian doping scandal, and have called for sweeping reforms. These include removing International Olympic Committee (IOC) members from the WADA Executive Committee and replacing them with independent experts.
WADA said it is already implementing structural reforms, with one-third of the 14-member Executive and 38-member Foundation Board now made up of active or former elite athletes.
There are also four independent members sitting on the executive committee, including the president and vice president, with further reforms under consideration.
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto Editing by Matthew Lewis)