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  • OpEd: WADA Founding President Says U.S. Bullying Not Helpful


    (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
    Foundation Board.