The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is set to consider a rule change which could threaten American participation at the Olympics if the United States withdraws funding from the global drugs watchdog, officials said Thursday.
In the latest chapter of an increasingly acrimonious feud between WADA and US officials, the agency said several governments and stakeholders had called for the United States to be punished if its funding to WADA is withdrawn.
In June, Washington’s Office of National Drug Control Policy recommended that US lawmakers be given the power to withhold funding to WADA, accusing the body of failing to implement governance reforms.
WADA responded by saying the ONDCP study was littered with “multiple inaccuracies, misconceptions and falsehoods.”
WADA stakeholders have now urged WADA to consider amending rules so any nation which withdraws funding could be declared non-compliant under the agency’s regulations.
Countries deemed to be non-compliant can be barred from major events and be denied the right to bid or host major events.
While the commercial imperatives of events like the Olympics mean the likelihood of American athletes being barred from competition are remote, a WADA spokesman said Thursday the US funding threat had triggered a strong response.
“A number of governments and other stakeholders were shocked that a country could unilaterally withdraw WADA’s funding without facing any consequences,” WADA spokesman James Fitzgerald told AFP.
“They feel that what is happening with the US government could create a devastating precedent internationally that could jeopardize the entire global anti-doping system.
“Therefore, they have asked us to look at the possibility of amending our rules so that nations which go against the spirit of the UNESCO Convention Against Doping in Sport in this way would trigger strong sanctions under the International Standard for Compliance.”
WADA’s executive committee could discuss the requests for a rule amendment this month, when officials meet on September 14-15, although it is not on the meeting’s agenda.
Any formal decision would also need to be considered by WADA’s Compliance Review Committee.
The possibility of US athletes being drawn into the feud between WADA and US authorities was criticised by Han Xiao, the chairman of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee’s Athletes Advisory Council.
Xiao contrasted the possibility of US athletes being expelled with WADA’s treatment of Russian athletes caught up in Moscow’s doping scandal.
“If WADA tries to find USADA non-compliant over funding withdrawal, will US athletes have their right to compete protected as the Russian athletes did?,” Xiao wrote on Twitter.
“Threatening US athletes over this is one of the most terrible things I’ve ever seen from WADA. Apparently non-payment is as serious as systemic doping. Where’s the rule that says this and is it applied to everyone?”