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WADA chief Reedie calls on Abe to provide more funding to fight doping

by Andrew McKirdy

Staff Writer

World Anti-Doping Agency President Craig Reedie challenged Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to put his money where his mouth is and increase Japan’s funding in the fight against doping on Friday.

Abe met International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach earlier this week and pledged to support the IOC’s efforts to combat doping at the 2020 Tokyo Games.

But Reedie called on Abe to take a step further, urging the prime minister to increase Japan’s current contribution to WADA of $1.5 million a year. WADA currently operates on an annual budget of £23 million ($28 million), which is funded equally between the IOC and national governments.

“If Prime Minister Abe has influence with governments, then please ask him to reinforce that message,” Reedie said at a news conference at the World Forum on Sport and Culture in Tokyo. “If he decides to be hugely generous in his encouragement, I operate on a budget of less than $30 million a year with the world’s doping problems to solve. This is a tiny, tiny amount of money.

“The IOC match government contributions dollar for dollar. It would be marvelous if, as a result of the troubles of the last two years and as a result of the splendid Olympic Games in Tokyo, the government decided that this is an investment that they are prepared to make.”

Reedie has no doubt that Japan will fulfill its anti-doping responsibilities at the 2020 Games.

“I am very confident that what will happen here, in the buildup to Tokyo and through Tokyo, is in excellent hands,” said the 75-year-old Scot. “The organizing committee is fully aware of their responsibilities and the manpower that they will have to deliver to conduct the whole anti-doping program.

“Much of that will be run by the Japan Anti-Doping Agency, and they are one of the very best national anti-doping agencies in the world. In my view, it’s hard to imagine a better place to be four years out than Tokyo.”

Plans are currently being discussed to expand the authority and independence of WADA, which has endured a rocky relationship with the IOC since a report commissioned by WADA uncovered evidence of massive state-sponsored Russian doping shortly before this summer’s Rio Olympics.

The IOC’s decision not to ban the entire Russian team from the Rio Games caused friction with WADA and led to fears that the IOC may look to scapegoat the anti-doping agency, but Reedie believes the organizations are now both on the same page.

“The amount of work that needs to be done starts on Nov. 20, when we will produce a road map for the changes that need to be made for the World Anti-Doping Code and how we are going to move forward,” said Reedie.

“So I am encouraged by the support. I’ve been encouraged by the support of the Olympic Movement, I’ve been encouraged by the support from governments. So I think we are all heading in the one direction, and I think it’s the correct direction.”

WADA is still battling to contain the fallout from the McLaren Report that lifted the lid on Russia’s doping problem, with hackers apparently linked to the country accessing WADA’s records and leaking athletes’ personal data.

The hacks have shone a light on the usage of therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) in sport — where athletes are permitted to take otherwise banned substances for medical reasons — leading Russian President Vladimir Putin to question the fairness of the system.

“It is designed to allow athletes who suffer from an illness to take a prohibited substance under clear medical control, and if their application for a TUE is accepted by the relevant authority, probably the international sports federation of that sport, then they can take part in that sport,” said Reedie. “I think that’s a perfectly reasonable system to have.

“One of the effects of the current publicity on TUEs is that you have to be vigilant at all times to make sure that the rules are being applied correctly, and that there is a proper balance throughout.”