The International Olympic Committee matches government funding, so the United States’ contribution helps generate more than $5.4 million annually, about 14.5 percent of WADA’s 2020 budget.
“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,” states the report, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post.
The 19-page report was signed by James W. Carroll, the ONDCP’s director, and sent last week to the chairs of the Appropriations subcommittees on Financial Services and General Government in both chambers. The report was originally requested by the Senate subcommittee last September.
“For years, the United States has provided the World Anti-Doping Agency with millions of taxpayers’ dollars in annual dues — far more than any other nation in the world,” an ONDCP official said. “We do so with an expectation that WADA will operate in a transparent, accountable and independent manner that is above all else fair to athletes. … America’s athletes devote years of effort and passion preparing to represent the United States in international competition. They deserve a fair shake and a WADA committed to guaranteeing competition on a level playing field.”
WADA took issue with the report Wednesday, saying it “contains multiple inaccuracies, misconceptions and falsehoods that will cause unnecessary misunderstanding as a result.”
The organization defended the composition of its advisory boards, noting that an American — the ONDCP’s Carroll — occupies one of 38 seats on its highest decision-making body, the foundation board, and saying that the United States long has been represented on WADA’s various boards and committees — “better than any other single nation,” a spokesman said in a statement.
“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,” the organization said. “It is beyond WADA’s comprehension that such a report is produced when representatives from the U.S. Government have never raised any of these concerns around the table of the WADA Foundation Board table over the past 20 years.”
WADA also took issue with the ONDCP’s suggestion that representation should be tied to funding, saying, “To allocate seats exclusively to the highest funders would eliminate the majority of nations of the world from ever holding a seat.”
“Would Americans support having all Members of the U.S. Congress come from just the wealthiest states?” it asked.
A WADA spokesman said the organization is still working through several reform measures and plans to submit to Congress a formal response to the ONDCP report.
The report highlights many of the concerns surrounding WADA’s handling of the Russian doping scandal, which the ONDCP says “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.”
“I think it’s a damning but accurate indictment of WADA’s governance and its failure in its role to serve clean athletes,” Travis Tygart, chief executive of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and a prominent WADA critic, said of the report. “Let’s hope this is the final wake-up call to the IOC and the public authorities at WADA to fix these problems before it’s too late.”
Though the United States is a major financial contributor, it has little to no representation on WADA’s governing boards and committees. The ONDCP outlined three benchmarks for lawmakers to monitor: WADA must include independent athletes and anti-doping stakeholders on its committees and decision-making bodies; it must “be free from undue influence by sports organizations with a direct financial interest in WADA decisions”; and its top leadership bodies “should be proportionate to financial contributions,” including better representation from the United States.
WADA has been exploring reform measures and first assembled a working group to address the matter in November 2016, yet the ONDCP report found that “WADA has made insufficient progress, despite having been given considerable time in which to shift course.”
The ONDCP asked lawmakers for authority to decrease or eliminate its funding “if WADA fails to meet basic standards for effectiveness, independence, transparency, and responsiveness to the athlete voice, and fails to promote U.S. representation commensurate with the United States’ financial contributions to WADA.”
While the ONDCP doesn’t mention the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act by name, the 19-page report offers the Trump administration’s biggest signal to date that it might be open to signing legislation that takes on WADA. The wide-reaching bill already has passed the House and has bipartisan support in the Senate.
Named for the whistleblower who helped expose Russia’s state-sponsored doping scheme, the bill has caused a stir in the international sports community because of its scope and the broad authority it grants the United States to police and punish those who conspire to cheat athletic competitions with performance-enhancing drugs. The Rodchenkov Act would allow the United States to prosecute conspirators involved in tainting competitions that involve American athletes. It calls for fines of up to $1 million and prison sentences of up to 10 years. WADA officials have raised concerns “that American jurisdiction would go beyond the United States and might create liability in other parts of the world.”
“Everything that the report found was not a surprise to people who’ve been paying close attention to these issues,” said the whistleblower’s attorney, Jim Walden, who worked with lawmakers to author the Rodchenkov Act. “WADA has been historically either inept or compromised. … It’s just a complete waste of U.S. tax dollars to be funding an institution that essentially allows our adversaries to weaponize corruption and defraud our athletes and our sponsoring companies.”