Opinion

Exclusive: U.S. threat to pull WADA funding could leave Americans out of Olympics

TORONTO (Reuters):

America’s top athletes could be banned from the Olympics and other major international sporting events if the United States follows through on its threat to withdraw funding from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), anti-doping leaders told Reuters.

The U.S. threat has sent shockwaves through the anti-doping community and prompted several governments to urge WADA to introduce legislation that would find the U.S. non-compliant with the WADA Code, effectively barring American athletes from international competition.

“The consequences of a withdrawal of WADA funding by the U.S. could be more severe and far reaching for American athletes,” WADA president Witold Banka told Reuters.

“We have been approached by a number of governments of the world that were shocked by the threats from the U.S. government supported by USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency).

“These governments want us to consider an amendment to the compliance standard meaning that non-payment by a government of its WADA contribution could lead directly to that country’s NADO (National Anti-Doping Organisation) being declared non-compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code.

“Inevitably this could have serious repercussions for athletes from that country including their participation in major international sporting events.”

The Tokyo Olympics have been delayed by a year until July 23 to Aug. 8, 2021, because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) rules stipulate there needs to be WADA compliance to allow Games participation.

All Olympic Games’ participants must comply with the IOC Executive Board’s entry process, including the signing of the entry form, which includes an obligation to comply with the Olympic Charter and World Anti-Doping Code and submit disputes to the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s jurisdiction.

USADA president Travis Tygart fired back by labelling the WADA threat empty and illegal.

“To threaten one country’s athletes over WADA’s failed governance model is pretty remarkable and disappointing,” Tygart told Reuters. “WADA is very threatened and rattled but to illegally threaten U.S. athletes is shameful.

“They ought to spend the time trying to fix and make WADA what the world wants it to be, which is a strong independent WADA.

“There’s something wrong when the global regulator attacks one of its key partners that is doing everything to uphold the rules, yet they turn a blind eye to a country like Russia that runs a state-sponsored doping programme.

“The hypocrisy here is incredulous.”

Russian authorities have always denied the existence of state-backed doping in the country.

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