(ATR) The founding president of the World Anti-Doping Agency says the U.S. is engaged in a form of bullying over threats to cut off funding for the agency. Richard Pound responds to an OpEd by Edwin Moses that appeared earlier this month in Around the RIngs.
The U.S. Funding Threat to WADA
Let me begin by saying that I have long admired Edwin Moses for his extraordinary field-of-play
performances. More recently, principally as a result of working together on the Foundation Board of the
World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), we have become friends, a relationship that I have very much
enjoyed and that has not changed from my perspective as a result of the current threat from the U.S.
government to unilaterally withhold the funding that it has committed to WADA in common with the
other governments of the world.
I read Edwin’s recent op-ed in Around the Rings
. It may have his name attached to it, but I know Edwin
and that is not the way he speaks. The penmanship is much more reminiscent of the tendentious and
biased language of the ONDCP report submitted recently to Congress. In any event, as a friend, I forgive
Edwin for the errors in the matters brought forward under his name.
As the respected head of the Laureus Foundation, Edwin was responsible for my nomination for the
Laureus Spirit of Sport Award in 2008 when I finished my term as the founding President of WADA, in
recognition of my efforts in the fight against doping in sport. He knows perfectly well that I am loyal to
the organization that I helped to create and to lead, but he also knows that such loyalty is not blind. The
same is true regarding my loyalty to the IOC. That loyalty too is not blind, as those who have followed
the Russian doping scandal will know. When I thought the IOC was doing the wrong thing, I said so, both
within the IOC and publicly.
Which brings us to the key points in the current dispute…
There is a fundamental difference between “gotcha” sound bites and principled strategic decisions.
If you are in the “gotcha” business, you can claim that you speak for “athletes” in the matter of antidoping and their relationship with WADA. Really? All athletes? What about the athletes on the WADA
Athletes Committee? Or the IOC Athletes Commission? Or the athletes on Athletes Commissions of
international sports federations or national Olympic committees? The whole Russian doping crisis
showed clearly that there is not a single athlete voice, but rather multiple athlete voices representing
multiple different views, including between athletes sitting in the same committee. This diversity of
views is healthy. I don’t begrudge any athlete from voicing her or his personal opinions on doping
matters. But they remain personal opinions, not by any means a collective view of all athletes
worldwide; and, many which I know firsthand are very supportive of the efforts of WADA on their
Nor do I believe that national policy of one of the most important countries of the world relating to
WADA should be based on a few personal opinions or on the basis of a so-called Washington Summit
that expressly excluded WADA; and, unlike WADA that has 18 countries from five regions represented
around the Board table, had very few countries represented and no presence from Africa or Asia, in
particular. That’s not policy – it’s “gotcha.”
If you are WADA, responsible for the global fight against doping in sport, you must be careful to keep in
mind the organizational objectives – to protect clean athletes from cheating by other athletes and their
entourages. WADA conducted two extremely effective investigations of Russian doping in 2015 and
2016. Despite the reports of those investigations, Russia denied everything. A roadmap was established
to resolve outstanding matters. The last remaining item was delivery of the Moscow laboratory records
and samples and a deadline for that step was established. The Russians failed to meet that deadline.
There was a great hue and cry, calling for a declaration by WADA banning the Russians.
Overlooked in the background noise was the fact that WADA had, immediately upon the default,
opened a case of non-compliance against the Russian Anti-Doping Agency. It had no legal power to do
anything more at that point. WADA continued to press for the delivery of the information and samples.
Russia quickly recognized that its tactic would not work and shortly thereafter delivered the records and
samples to WADA. WADA has been the only organization to bring Russia to account and has now
pressed anti-doping charges that will be heard by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in November 2020.
That is the difference between strategic conduct and “gotcha.”
Principled strategy and persistence advance the fight against doping in sport – the other impedes it.
Even those loyal to organizations can recognize an ongoing need to improve how they operate. I
certainly share that view. There is ongoing governance review in both WADA and the IOC as well as
other sport organizations. If athlete representation within WADA needs some adjustment, that can be
arranged, bearing in mind that there is a balance to be maintained between sport and public authority
stakeholders. Why do those who purport to speak for athletes not come forward, with both their
credentials and specific suggestions, instead of mere complaints, misstatements and hectoring rhetoric?
Finally, it is not correct to say that the IOC controls WADA. Voting rights on the sport side are balanced
in equal numbers by the IOC, IFs, NOCs and athletes. The sport stakeholders’ funding comes in equal
contributions from the television revenues shared by the IOC, IFs and NOCs, so it is wrong and
misleading to suggest that the IOC itself provides all of the funding and therefore controls WADA. The
IFs and NOCs choose their own representatives. The public authorities have equal votes and can,
therefore, block any action of WADA which they do not approve.
What we all need now is enlightened cooperation, not a metaphoric hammer-throw by one of the
world’s leading nations. No good can come from such unilateral and bullying behaviour, least of all by
the United States.
Richard W. Pound
14 July 2020
Richard W. Pound was the founding President of WADA from 1999-2007 and remains a member of its