22nd July 2021

US withholds US$1.3 million funding from WADA

The US Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) has withheld US$1.3 million of the $2.9 million earmarked by Congress to fund the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) during 2021. “Congress appropriated up to US$2.9 million for the fiscal year 2021 for the ONDCP to fulfil the annual US dues commitment to WADA”, said Richard Baum of the ONDCP in a Helsinki Committee hearing on Wednesday (video below). “ONDCP, breaking from our past practice, intends to transmit just over half of that amount later this year. We view this partial dues payment as a sign of good faith while indicating our commitment to ensuing ongoing governance reform at WADA. We hope to see sufficient progress to make the remainder of the dues payment this year.”

‘Congress appropriated up to $2.932 million in Fiscal Year 2021 for ONDCP to fulfil a negotiated commitment to fund annual U.S. dues to WADA for 2021’, read a statement from Baum (PDF below). ‘ONDCP intends to transmit just over half of this amount ($1.6 million) later this month’.

The ONDCP has consistently said that WADA needs to remove the conflicts of interest that give the Olympic Movement a voting majority in WADA decision making. It proposes that WADA’s Executive Committee should be staffed by independent members, and the Olympic Movement should step away entirely. The Olympic Movement should still be represented on the Foundation Board, but the ONDCP believes that this should be expanded to include unrepresented members such as national anti-doping organisations (NADOs), independent athletes, laboratories, and technical experts.

Link to meeting minutes…

In 2020, the ONDCP recommended that the US should consider withdrawing funding due to WADA’s failure to reform. Whilst both organisations put out a statement in November of that year agreeing to work together, WADA had already discussed sanctions against public authorities that withdraw finding at its September 2020 Executive Committee meeting. In a highly politicised move, two budgets were presented to that meeting – one without US funding.

“There are undressed systemic challenges with the governance of WADA”, explained Baum. “These flaws in its structure date back to its founding […] A fit for purpose WADA would adapt and address issues that hamper its effectiveness as the global regulator of doping in sport. 

“We need to see a transformation of the WADA Executive Committee […] It needs to be changed into a full expert independent body. Its work is too important to be subject to even the appearance of conflicts of interest. 

“The US will be pursuing this reform proactively and in cooperation with other governments. If the IOC blocks this systemic reform, the US will pursue other alternatives to increase independence within the WADA Executive Committee more gradually.”

WADA is funded 50% by public authorities and 50% by the Olympic Movement, in a process which sees the Olympic Movement commit to match any agreed government funding. On 16 July, WADA published its updated 2021 Budget, which showed that governments are lagging behind in paying dues. 

Governments had paid $16.3 million of $20.22 million due from them, and the Olympic Movement had paid $18.2 million of the $20.22 million due from them. This discrepancy is largely due to the US having not paid its $2.93 million.

WADA’s 2020 Annual Report details a surplus…

The $2.93 million represents 7.2% of WADA’s total budget for the year, and the withheld $1.3 million represents 3.2% of the total (excluding contributions from Montreal International – WADA is based in Montreal). The ONDCP said that its decision to withhold part of its dues would not affect WADA, as the organisation recorded a surplus during 2020 (see right).

‘The United States recognises that the lack of a full payment has the potential to affect WADA administration’, reads Baum’s statement. ‘However, based on the substantial savings achieved by WADA due to its prudent decision to hold its meetings virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization is carrying a surplus. WADA, according to reporting by its internal Finance Committee, has sufficient funds to fulfill its obligations at the Tokyo Olympics and meet all its other expenses, even before the United States provided any payment. 

‘Our intent, as stated above, is to wait until the Fall before considering WADA funding issues further. Nonetheless if WADA, due to efforts to implement major organizational reforms or to meet new anti-doping testing responsibilities, faces a sudden fiscal crisis, the U.S. would be willing to reconsider the timing of when the remainder of the U.S. dues are provided.’

“In collaboration with all of our diverse stakeholders, including the U.S. Government, WADA will continue to make meaningful improvements to ensure the Agency’s governance evolves in line with its role and with the global fight against doping in sport in general”, a WADA spokesperson told the Associated Press. “We are confident that the U.S. Government will ultimately accept the outcomes of this democratic and collaborative process”.

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