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WADA to look at new sanctions after U.S. threat to pull funding

(Reuters) - The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said on Friday it will consider amending rules to punish stakeholders who withdraw funding after the United States threatened to pull its contributions unless reforms it demands are met.

A woman walks into the head office of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in Montreal, Quebec, Canada November 9, 2015. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi

The WADA executive board meets on Sept. 14-15 where the threat of a U.S. pull out will be on the agenda after some governments expressed concern over a country being able to refuse to meet its funding commitments without facing any significant consequences.

“This matter has been raised by some concerned governments, not by WADA’s leadership, and as is the case with any proposal raised by a stakeholder, WADA has an obligation to consider it carefully,” WADA president Witold Banka said in a statement.

“We will examine the rules to see if they need to be strengthened in light of the current situation.”

A report by the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), presented to the U.S. Congress in June, was highly critical of WADA demanding that it implement immediate reforms.

The report also suggested that the U.S. withhold funding unless it was given greater representation on WADA boards and committees and “a proportionate voice in decision-making.”

The U.S. is the largest single contributor to WADA, paying over $2.7 million into the 2020 budget of $37.4 million, half of which comes from the IOC.

Under current WADA rules, if the U.S. were to pull funding, the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) would lose its seat on the Foundation board and all committees.

According to WADA, some governments are seeking tougher sanctions, including amending the UNESCO treaty so that countries could be found in non-compliance of the WADA Code and potentially barred from the Olympic Games.

There is a fear, says WADA, that a U.S. withdrawal would set a precedent that could jeopardise the entire global anti-doping system.

“What our stakeholders are telling us is that this episode has highlighted the need for more commitment and accountability within the clean sport community,” said Banka.

“The only way to preserve the global system is for everyone involved to stand united and work together to make it stronger.”

USADA chief Travis Tygart, who has been critical of the slow pace of WADA reform, called the threat to keep the U.S. out of the Olympics empty and illegal.

“It is surprising WADA would threaten illegal retaliation against the U.S.,” Tygart told Reuters “There is no rule.

“If the U.S. government stops paying, the only consequence specified in the WADA rules and UNESCO treaty is that the U.S. could no longer sit on any WADA committees.

“Now if they are saying we’re going to change the rules to make non-payment a different consequence then go through that process and let’s have that conversation.

“It’s interesting they are willing to do that but not sanction (Russian) state-sponsored doping.”

Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; editing by Ian Chadband

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