Liam Morgan

If I had a British pound for every time I heard someone say the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) needed more funding, I would probably be able to bankroll the organisation for a full Olympic cycle.

It is unquestionably true that WADA’s coffers need bolstering. Many believe the global anti-doping watchdog, with its mission of protecting clean sport, is grossly underfunded.

WADA’s budget for 2018 was around $32 million (£24 million/€28 million) and, while eight per cent increases from 2019 to 2022 were approved last year, its leadership has consistently stated that figure is nowhere near enough for the body to fulfil its mandate.

Those calls were reinvigorated last week at the Annual Symposium in Lausanne, where speaker after speaker lined up to stress how WADA needs a greater cash injection to operate more efficiently.

WADA President Sir Craig Reedie, whose term at the helm of the organisation concludes in November, added to the chorus when he declared: "If the rest of the world wants us to take over all the investigative duties, they are going to have to give us more than eight per cent per annum to pay for it."

The likes of Sir Craig and others are making a valid point, but the concerning element for them is that these pleas for increased funding are falling on deaf ears.

After all, last week's gathering in the Olympic capital was the latest in a long line of events where members of the world of anti-doping, plummeted into crisis following the Russian doping scandal, had urged Governments and the sports movement to cough up additional cash.

For whatever reason - one possible explanation could be the lack of trust many have in the system amid the ongoing Russian fall-out, which in turn makes it more difficult to justify giving more - there is a reluctance towards doing so.

WADA President Sir Craig Reedie defended the organisation's decisions on Russia during his keynote address at the symposium ©Getty Images
WADA President Sir Craig Reedie defended the organisation's decisions on Russia during his keynote address at the symposium ©Getty Images

A common criticism of symposiums such as the one held by WADA last week is that the same old issues are discussed and topics are merely regurgitated from previous editions.

They often become echo chambers, where the same people use their speaking slot to make the same point repeatedly to an audience which has heard it time and time again.

The calls for enhanced funding fall into that category. Ever since WADA was formed in 1999, funding - and how much is enough to ensure the global regulator does its job properly - has been a key talking point.

Of course, this does not mean WADA's administration should end its pursuit of an enlarged cash pot, but you begin to wonder what it will take for Governments and sport to listen.

Speaking of issues which keep cropping up, the Russian doping scandal was again, unsurprisingly, a prominent theme at the symposium.

A statement from WADA the week before had pre-empted questions of progress regarding the Moscow Laboratory data as the organisation confirmed it had successfully uploaded the information and had begun the arduous process of checking it is authentic, genuine and has not been tampered with.

Russia was also the principle talking point in Sir Craig's opening address, where the embattled WADA President insisted the Executive Committee's much-maligned and controversial decision to reinstate the Russian Anti-Doping Agency in September was the correct one.

"Clearly it was not an easy decision for the WADA Executive Committee and I fully understand the reasons against it, but in light of the events that have occurred since it was made, it has proven to be the right one," he said.

Plenty in the room as Sir Craig delivered a typically-defiant speech still disagree, however.

The opprobrium towards WADA and its President since the Executive Committee meeting in September and a subsequent decision not to take any further action against RUSADA after Russian authorities missed the December 31 deadline may have eased but there remains lingering resentment at how the situation has been handled.

Andy Parkinson, chief executive at British Rowing and chair of the International Paralympic Committee's Russian taskforce, spoke for many during his introduction before a panel session entitled "Looking Back and Moving Forward Together".

Parkinson, also the first chief executive of UK Anti-Doping, described Russia competing under a neutral flag at last year's Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang as "embarrassing" and highlighted how it was time for WADA to regain the "respect" it had lost in recent years.

He was also not afraid to take Sir Craig to task after the WADA President called for unity following the fractious aftermath to the Russian crisis.

"There is a lot of anger about what has happened and it is absolutely correct to move on," Parkinson said.

"Your assessment of the last two years is obviously accurate but the calmness with which you presented it, I struggle with."

The WADA Annual Symposium was dominated by the ongoing Russian situation ©WADA
The WADA Annual Symposium was dominated by the ongoing Russian situation ©WADA

It is difficult to foresee a time where sport and anti-doping can truly move on from the Russian affair, which is almost certain to drag on towards next year's Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

Should the Moscow Laboratory data turn out to be the treasure trove WADA is hoping for, it will then be up to International Federations to begin pursuing cases and sanctions against the Russian athletes involved in the state-sponsored scheme.

This is far from an easy process, particularly given how many IFs may not have the legal means to do so.

WADA plans to start with the strongest cases, with intelligence and investigations department head Günter Younger stressing how the organisation would continue its attempt at getting to the bottom of the scandal until there is no evidence left.

Having previously threatened IFs with legal action, Sir Craig insisted WADA stands ready to help any who might be unable to go after those implicated while admitting some sports bodies may need a gentle nudge of encouragement.

For Sir Craig, however, the problem will soon become someone else's. The 71-year-old will relinquish his position as President in November, and it was not surprising to see all three candidates in the running to replace him frantically lobbying at the symposium.

The identify of his successor may remain uncertain but one thing is for sure - the Russian situation, as it was called by many in Lausanne - will almost certainly encroach into the new President's tenure.

Polish Sports Minister Witold Bańka, Dominican Republic's Marcos Diaz and WADA vice-president Linda Helleland, all of whom are current members of the Executive Committee, were in the Olympic capital to pitch their ideas and try to gain momentum for their respective campaigns at a crucial juncture in the race.

With a May 14 meeting of the public authorities group within WADA, where the next President will be chosen, drawing ever closer, the symposium offered the three candidates a rare opportunity to spread their message among the wider anti-doping community.

Some did that more successfully than others. The view from the symposium was that the battle to become the fourth President of WADA in its short history was essentially a straight shoot-out between Bańka and Diaz, given they both have the full backing of Europe and the Americas respectively.

Helleland, perhaps realising she has gone too far to back out now, has vowed to continue with her campaign despite losing out to her Polish rival in the contest for the European nomination.

That element seemed to puzzle both those who attended the symposium and Bańka and Diaz, who were each not afraid to question how Helleland was still in contention.

Other sessions focused on athletes, changes to the Code and education ©WADA
Other sessions focused on athletes, changes to the Code and education ©WADA

Diaz appeared genuinely surprised that she remains a candidate as he told reporters he was hopeful no country or continent would break the "gentleman's agreement" in place regarding how the public authorities choose their preferred contender, while also casting doubt on her chances of victory.

Banka, involved in a public spat with Helleland in November, started our brief chat by saying he did not wish to speak of his rivals but could not resist a thinly-veiled barb at the Norwegian.

"The rules are clear, I was unanimously approved by all the European countries," he said.

Soon the time for talking will be over and the eventual winner will have more pressing issues to focus on, with Russia and the need for increased funding among the matters likely to be top of their newly-inherited in-tray.