World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) President Witold Bańka has warned control of the global watchdog is “not for sale” after the United States threatened to withdraw funding from the organisation and questioned whether it was getting value for money.
In an open letter to athletes, Bańka hit out at the “political attacks and games” he believes WADA is targeted with and said these disputes have overshadowed its mission.
The former Polish Sports Minister also appeared to dismiss criticism from the Global Athlete group, while rejecting suggestions of a lack of transparency and insisting the organisation was moving forward with its governance reforms.
Much of the letter’s contents seem to be an inherent response to a report from the United States Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), which has been at the centre of a public row between WADA and the country in recent months.
The US contributes $2.7 million (£2.03 million/€2.27 million) to WADA, more than any other nation, and with the International Olympic Committee matching Government funding, this amounts to $5.4 million (£4.06 million/€4.55 million).
The ONDCP threatened to pull the funding unless WADA underwent serious reform.
WADA first convened a working group in November 2016 to explore options for reforming the ONDCP, claiming “insufficient progress” has been made.
The ONDCP also questioned whether the country’s investment into the organisation is worthwhile and was critical of the country’s lack of representation within WADA’s governance – ONDCP director James W. Carroll is the only American member of the Foundation Board, comprised equally of representatives from the Olympic Movement and Governments.
Bańka, who officially succeeded Britain’s Sir Craig Reedie as WADA President in January, promised he will “not allow WADA to get bogged down in these political games”.
“Various arguments are used in these attacks – ranging from how our activities are financed and who can legitimately represent stakeholder interests to allegations of a lack of transparency.
“I can assure you that I will not allow WADA to get bogged down in these political games; and that, control of WADA is not for sale, no matter what stakeholder we are dealing with.
“However, I have the impression that the loudest criticism comes from those who, unfortunately, are not known for being particularly transparent themselves.”
Bańka highlighted how WADA holds Foundation Board meetings which are open to the media and how it publishes Executive Committee minutes as examples of why he believes criticism over a lack of transparency is unfair.
He admitted, however, that WADA “could do more”, but stressed it is not possible for the body to publicly release information about pending investigations and cases, such as its protracted dispute with Russia.
Bańka also appeared to suggest the Global Athlete advocacy group, jointly led by former WADA deputy director general Rob Koehler and British Olympic track cycling gold medallist Callum Skinner, was itself guilty of a lack of transparency.
“I would expect similar transparency from our critics,” he said.
“For them to be transparent.
“To publish their governing documents.
“To tell the world who finances them and who their members are.
“I am sure that the athlete community would also like to know.”