WADA President Witold Bańka has claimed the US threat to withdraw funding could harm athletes ©Getty Images

Witold Bańka has claimed the participation of athletes from the United States in major events, such as the Olympic Games, could be threatened should the country follow through with its warning to withdraw funding from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

The WADA President told Reuters that the organisation had been approached by nations to encourage the organisation to introduce legislation which would see the US become non-compliant with the WADA Code should it withhold funding.

Non-compliance can potentially have an impact on countries' ability to compete at the Olympic and Paralympic Games, as well as bidding for major international events.

"The consequences of a withdrawal of WADA funding by the US could be more severe and far reaching for American athletes," Banka told Reuters.

"We have been approached by a number of governments of the world that were shocked by the threats from the US Government supported by United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).

"These governments want us to consider an amendment to the compliance standard meaning that non-payment by a government of its WADA contribution could lead directly to that country’s National Anti-Doping Organisation being declared non-compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code.

"Inevitably this could have serious repercussions for athletes from that country including their participation in major international sporting events."

Bańka’s comments follow an open letter published yesterday by the WADA President, where he warned control of the global watchdog is "not for sale".

Bańka criticised "political attacks and games" he believes WADA is targeted with and said these disputes have overshadowed its mission.

The letter has been viewed as a response to the US Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), which has been at the centre of a public row between WADA and the country in recent months.

The ONDCP had claimed "insufficient progress" had been made by WADA working groups that had been convened in November 2016 to explore options to reform.

The ONDCP also questioned whether the country's investment into the organisation is worthwhile and was critical of the country's lack of representation within WADA's governance - ONDCP director James Carroll is the only American member of the Foundation Board, comprised equally of representatives from the Olympic Movement and Governments.

The US contributes $2.7 million (£2.03 million/€2.27 million) to WADA a year, more than any other nation, and with the International Olympic Committee matching Government funding, this amounts to $5.4 million (£4.06 million/€4.55 million).

A rule which would see countries deemed non-compliant should their public authorities fail to pay their WADA contribution could see numerous nations face potential sanctions.

A WADA breakdown of funding contributions, dated August 14, reveals that 74 countries had yet to make any of their contribution to the organisation’s budget this year.

This includes countries such as Spain and Mexico, which are budgeted to contribute $534,512 (£404,264/€452,761) and $405,746 (£306,875/€343,741) towards the WADA budget this year.

WADA has budgeted to receive $18.7 million (£14.4 million/€15.8 million) from public authorities this year, with $17.4 million (£13.6 million/€14.7 million) received by August 14.

The Olympic Movement will match the contribution made by public authorities.

USADA chief executive Travis Tygart has claimed the WADA threat is
USADA chief executive Travis Tygart has claimed the WADA threat is "empty and illegal" ©Getty Images

WADA’s threat appears to have intensified the ongoing feud with USADA, whose chief executive Travis Tygart has reportedly labelled the suggestion "empty and illegal".

"To threaten one country’s athletes over WADA’s failed governance model is pretty remarkable and disappointing," Tygart told Reuters.

"WADA is very threatened and rattled but to illegally threaten US athletes is shameful.

"They ought to spend the time trying to fix and make WADA what the world wants it to be, which is a strong independent WADA.

"There’s something wrong when the global regulator attacks one of its key partners that is doing everything to uphold the rules, yet they turn a blind eye to a country like Russia that runs a state-sponsored doping programme.

"The hypocrisy here is incredulous.

"It is surprising WADA would threaten illegal retaliation against the US.

"If the US Government stops paying the only consequence specified in the WADA rules and UNESCO treaty is that the US could no longer sit on any WADA committees.

"You can trust the federal government looked at the legal ramifications in the event they stopped paying.

"When they realised all it meant was they were off the Foundation board, they went big deal.

"That means nothing to us, it has no power, it is ceremonial.

"There is anti-American bias."

The dispute between WADA and USADA has intensified in recent months ©Getty Images
The dispute between WADA and USADA has intensified in recent months ©Getty Images

Polish Bańka, who officially succeeded Britain's Sir Craig Reedie as WADA President in January, has promised he will "not allow WADA to get bogged down in these political games".

His open letter highlighted how WADA holds Foundation Board meetings, which are open to the media, and how it publishes Executive Committee minutes as examples of why he believes criticism over a lack of transparency is unfair.

He admitted, however, that WADA "could do more", but stressed it is not possible for the body to publicly release information about pending investigations and cases, such as its protracted dispute with Russia.

Bańka also appeared to suggest the Global Athlete advocacy group, jointly led by former WADA deputy director general Rob Koehler and British Olympic track cycling gold medallist Callum Skinner, was itself guilty of a lack of transparency.

Bańka rejected claims from Global Athlete and other prominent WADA critics that the organisation lacks what he called "independent athletes" within its governance structure.

Separately, a virtual meeting of the National Anti-Doping Organisations (NADOs) of Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Latvia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States took place yesterday, with Bańka speaking during the opening.

The NADOs reiterated their support for the "Copenhagen Declaration", which was published back in 2016.

The declaration included proposals for "greater autonomy of WADA and the anti-doping system - particularly with greater independence from sports organisations, improved governance and transparency at WADA, increased encouragement, support, recognition and protection of whistleblowers, and support for investigations and adequate sanctioning power."

The NADOs reportedly called for WADA to conduct a thorough investigation on the recent dismissal of RUSADA director general Yuri Ganus to determine if there has been interference in operational decisions and activities.

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on testing programmes was also discussed.