WADA funding at critical point in doping war

Director General of the WADA, David Howman

Director General of the WADA, David Howman (Image credit: AFP)

A lack of government funding could harm the fight against doping, so says WADA's director-general David Howman, who added that changes to the agency's code in 2015 could stretch them beyond their capacity. Howman was speaking at the "International Conference: The Pharmaceutical Industry and the Fight Against Doping" in Paris. The event was hosted by the Ministry of Sports, Youth, Non-Formal Education and Voluntary Organizations of France, and co-organized with the Council of Europe, UNESCO and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

WADA currently receive between $28-30 million USD per-year with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) matching every dollar from national governments. However with a number of austerity measures being introduced since the global financial crisis, Howman is concerned that WADA's fight against doping could stagnate and stretch to breaking point. In the last few years, they have moved from focussing on their own WADA code and testing to also collaborating with government agencies and Interpol. The latest measure that was announced on Paris will have them collaborating with a number of pharmaceutical companies and produce a sharing of information that could weed out cheats and doping rings.

"If you had said to me five years ago that we would be here talking to the industry and the bio people, I would have said it would have never happened because in those days they were more concerned that their image would be tainted from anti-doping. So I think there has been a significant shift in attitude from the industry. This morning indicated a level of commitment that has to be praised," Howman said in relation to the importance of today's conference.

Asked it was simply a publicity exercise for the likes of GlaxoSmithKline and US Bio to capitalise on Howman said, "I don't see it that way. if think if you've got people willing to give up their time an energy to come along for something like this, that's pretty significant. you don't often get private enterprise mixing with public authorities. I don't think they'd do that just for a couple of headlines."

Today's conference aside, WADA is under increasing pressure to take the fight to those that cheat but their limited financial clout worries Howman.

"I think we are now stretching the dollar we've got to far beyond the stretching capacity of that dollar. And if you look at the list of things we're asked to do, it's huge. We've not been able to hire new people since 2004 and you've got to say at some stage, something has to give. We're stretching it to the give factor now," he told Cyclingnews.

"It means you don't do everything as thoroughly as you could and instead of doing 10 things you do five. And if you do five that count, that's fine but if from the other five one proves to be something you should be doing you get caught out. I hope we don't get to that stage. It's right on the verge now. Next year all be a challenge but then 2015 will be even bigger because of the changes to the rules. You ask us to carry these things out but you don't give us the resources to do it. What's going to happen?"

"The worst case scenario is that we'll have to reduce the number of people we've got working for us and we'll have to reduce the activities we're doing. That's not beneficial for the fight against doping."

A future mandate

While Howman is aware of the financial constraints WADA finds itself in, he would still like to see the agency have a greater mandate in the future.

"We ought to have the power to enquiry ourselves. The second part of that is that if we have that ability then we can do something with the information. We'll have that process and the sanction process. It's a two-part system that we don't have now."

One mandate they are not subject to control over is the UCI's Independent Commission into the Lance Armstrong case and the barrage of allegations the UCI were left facing. The sport's governing body chose to appoint John Coates from the ICAS to nominate suggestions for the panel. Howman agrees with former WADA head Dick Pound, who told Cyclingnews last week that the lack of cooperation between the UCI and WADA was worrying but Howman added that he preferred that WADA remained on the sidelines, able to provide witness testimony if called upon by the Independent Commission.

"The only area we're looking at is what the UCI are going to do with their internal enquiry," Howman told Cyclingnews. Mr. Coates has been asked to nominate some names in his position as the president of the ICAS. I can understand that happening. We have to see what their positions are and their terms of reference."

"I differ with Dick on that a little. I think it's interesting that we've not been consulted. We don't know anything about it. at all. That's interesting. I think what Dick Pound said is probably right, that it's interesting and a bit disappointing. They, the UCI, have taken that view, and so be it. We've got information that we can pass along if we're invited to do that we'll do that."

"What worries me is that we still don't know who is on the authority and we still don't know their terms of reference. it's hard to comment until we see that."

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Daniel Benson

Daniel Benson was the Editor in Chief at Cyclingnews.com between 2008 and 2022. Based in the UK, he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he ran the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.