The ONDCP sent a report to Congress last month, urging lawmakers to consider pulling back funding to WADA, the body charged with monitoring and investigating doping in international sport, if the organization fails to take on serious reform measures outlined by President Trump’s drug policy office. The report criticized WADA’s handling of the Russian doping affair and said the United States deserves greater representation on WADA’s boards and committees because it contributes more than other nations.
Pound, a Canadian member of WADA’s foundation board, its highest decision-making body, said the United States’ criticisms and threat were “really kind of out of the blue.”
“It’s certainly the first time that a major partner who’s been in WADA and played an important role from the very beginning all of a sudden is threatening to take its marbles and go home,” he said. “It’s really inexplicable. There’s no reason for it. It can do no good in the fight against doping in sport. It’s not really conduct you expect from one of your founding partners.”
Pound and WADA President Witold Banka took issue with the ONDCP’s process. In WADA’s formal response, sent to the ONDCP on June 26, the organization states that the ONDCP shared three paragraphs from a draft of its report with WADA for review last month. WADA says it offered corrections that ONDCP ignored and failed to include in the final report that was sent to Congress.
“[You] chose not to incorporate our clarifications,” Banka wrote in the response to James W. Carroll, the ONDCP’s director. “As the saying goes, ‘Why let the truth get in the way of a good story?’ ”
WADA says ONDCP ignored the review it offered and sent a 19-page report to the chairs of the appropriations subcommittees on financial services and general government in both chambers that was filled with “inaccuracies, misconceptions and falsehoods.”
“Were I a responsible member of the Congress, I would want to know why a report was submitted to my attention by the executive branch despite the ONDCP’s knowledge that it was replete with factual errors and omissions,” Pound said, “the effect of which was to encourage me to act on the basis of an erroneous and incomplete factual matrix. I would have serious concern that, as a member of the Congress, I had been deliberately misled by the executive branch.”
Asked to comment, an ONDCP official said the drug policy office “stands by the information presented in our report.”
“Our report to the U.S. Congress was not an attempt to discredit WADA as WADA has alleged,” the official said. “Rather, it was a response to our congressional mandate to produce a report about WADA’s governance reform efforts.”
The ONDCP report was applauded by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and proponents of a congressional bill called the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act, sweeping legislation aimed at penalizing bad actors who conspire to cheat international competition. The ONDCP asked Congress to monitor three benchmarks as it considers future WADA funding: The international body must include independent athletes and anti-doping stakeholders on its committees; it should “be free from undue influence” from organizations with financial interests in WADA decisions”; and its top decision-making bodies “should be proportionate to financial contributions.”
WADA says the United States has had fair representation on its decision-making boards and that tying representation to funding would be unfair to less prosperous nations. The organization’s foundation board has 36 representatives: 18 from the Olympic movement and 18 from governments of the world, plus a president and vice president. An American has served on the board since WADA was founded two decades ago, with the ONDCP’s Carroll currently holding a position.
The United States contended that it provided more money to WADA than any other nation, effectively contributing $5.4 million — $2.7 million directly, which is then matched by the International Olympic Committee — and that “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.”
WADA noted that Canada actually contributes more funding but said representation should not be tied to money regardless.
“If governments were represented in line with how much funding they provided WADA, it would bar any representation from entire continents, let alone certain nations,” WADA said in its response to ONDCP. “Countries — and not necessarily the ones with the best history of anti-doping — could effectively buy seats on WADA’s governance.”
Pound, who’s also the IOC’s longest-serving member, having served on that committee since 1978, said he found the entire U.S. report curious, given that no U.S. representative had previously sounded alarms, that Americans on the foundation board had previously approved past reform measures and that in some cases Americans hadn’t even sought positions on WADA’s various boards or committees.
“What’s their end game that comes out of a threat like this? It doesn’t make rational sense,” he said. “Sending a report that is so flawed and known to be flawed to Congress as justification for a course of action — if I was a congressman, I’d be really pissed off that somebody did that.”