Lance Armstrong Doping Charges: What is WADA and Why Do They Care?

 

And so the Lance Armstrong did he or didn’t he use performance enhancing drugs during his Tour de France race days continue. The World Anti-Doping Agency wants the United States Anti-Doping Agency to conduct an investigation into the allegations that Armstrong did something while the International Cycling Union wants a shot at Armstrong and some of his cycling teammates.

WADA and the USADA are going after Armstrong even though the United States Attorney’s office investigation ended in February after a two-year probe. But these quasi-public agencies want to keep the investigation going for some reason.

Just why does the World Anti-Doping Agency or the United States Anti-Doping Agency exist? How is a group like WADA funded? The World Anti-Doping Agency is an arm of the International Olympic Committee and that group funds half of the money WADA needs to operate. Who pays for the other 50 percent? Individual governments pay using taxpayers’ money.

The USADA, which Congress recognized in 2001, is funded by American tax dollars through a grant from the Office of National Drug Control yet the agency, not the government, sets up drug enforcement guidelines. The United States Olympic Committee also throws money into the USADA.

WADA wants to make sure that athletes are not using banned substances and that sporting events are bona fide events. If an athlete is caught, he or she is banned from competition but not subject to criminal prosecution. So why are taxpayers worldwide funding this group, a group that wants athletes available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for drug testing?

It is funny how certain politicians running for office in the United States that are calling for smaller government, less government intrusion and cutting taxes never talk about sports spending. WADA is a pseudo-governmental worldwide agency that seems to be in existence just to protect the brand of sports. WADA functions because of the UNESCO International Convention against Doping in Sport. The United Nation’s cover allows nations to sign into an agreement with WADA.

WADA runs roughshod over sports as the moral arbitrator in all things banned substance. Moral is the key phrase as the group doesn’t see anything illegal in banned drug use. Doping is just cheating.

In 2010, John Fahey, the President of the World Anti-Doping Agency, demanded that Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association knuckle under to him and his merry band of urine collectors and apparently wanted blood test takers to get serious about cleansing the sport of “cheaters.” Fahey wanted Major League Baseball to start taking blood samples in addition to urine samples of individual players to see if they were using human growth hormone.

Apparently Fahey thinks that players should just give blood and is presuming that all the players are using HGH until proven otherwise. There is a presumption of guilt by the WADA guys and they are absolutely correct in their approach.

Just ask them.

Fahey and his group, who trample over individual rights in their quest to clean sports, say there is a valid blood test for HGH because a British rugby player, Terry Newton, tested positive after giving blood. The odd thing about Fahey blasting Major League Baseball in 2010 was that International Olympic Committee delegates have exiled the sport to Elba; well maybe not Elba as Major League Baseball has moved on and started a global competition, the World Baseball Classic.

Fahey was following in the footsteps of his predecessor Dick Pound, the Montreal lawyer, who was also on a cheater crusade. Apparently, the Pounds and Faheys of the world (and you can throw in the President of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge) want to rid the sports world of cheaters even though those cheaters are using illegal substances that could end up in arrests and maybe a conviction here or there.

Rogge tried to make that case to Italian authorities prior to the 2006 Turin Olympics that drug use was cheating and did not violate Italian law.

Rogge failed.

WADA acts as if it is a sovereign state and one of the WADA rules is that all athletes be ready for a drug test when WADA wants to administer a drug test at any time or any place. A human rights violation is not troubling to the Pounds and Faheys of the world. Or to Rogge and his gang in the IOC either as he apparently looked the other way in the lead up to the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics about China’s human rights record.

Some athletic organizations have fought back against the 24/7 rule, and the tactics seem more in line with the Geneva Convention treaties that govern the treatment of war prisoners than athletes. The Belgium sports union, Sporta, challenged WADA’s edict under Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights that allows for privacy and the right to be free from unlawful searches. The International Federation of Professional Footballers is not very happy with WADA either.

The country of France doesn’t seem too impressed with WADA. A plan to increase taxes on television sports fees that would go to help fund WADA, according to the magazine Cycleworld, has been scrapped. French football team owners didn’t think that they should be taxed to support anti-doping efforts.

WADA is not a state nor is the International Olympic Committee, although the IOC for some inexplicable reason has the same United Nations observer rights as the Vatican, which is a sovereign state.

The most troubling part of the Rogge, Pound and Fahey squawking is that governments have given these people legitimacy. WADA just cares about sports. It would be refreshing to see  Fahey, a former Australian Finance Minister, Rogge or Pound speak out on the drug problems on the US-Mexican border or the other drug problems in the world including poppy production in Afghanistan, but they don’t utter a word. They just go after athletes. Of course, Rogge and his IOC delegation (Pound was an IOC delegate) and Fahey make their livelihoods through international sports events with funding from American TV networks and American corporations paying a great deal of the freight.

Since steroids and HGH possession is illegal in the United States without a doctor’s consent, law enforcement officials, whether it is the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the Drug Enforcement Administration, should be the lead investigators, not some bunch of people like Fahey, Rogge and Pound who think they have some quasi-governmental authority.

At the end of the day, if the big money behind sports wanted to clean up the industry (and that is a big if) there are very simple steps that can be taken. Turn off the money faucet that keeps big-time sports going in the United States. Family values corporations like Disney (ESPN) or another guy who peddles high morals, Rupert Murdoch (FOX), could just stop buying television rights to sports, corporations could say no to buying big-ticket items like club seats and luxury boxes, and municipalities would make teams pay property taxes and cut far better leases with teams. But that doesn’t happen.

Which begs the question: Is Fahey truly interested in assuring the integrity of a sports event or are he, Rogge and all the other sports moralists that are pushing evasive drug testing by taking blood and trampling on athletes’ rights just to appease some fans who scream on talk radio,  simply trying to protect their high paying jobs and global status by jumping up and down and yelling about the need to look into allegations of Lance Armstrong doing something?

Evan Weiner, the winner of the United States Sports Academy’s 2010 Ronald Reagan Media Award, is an author, radio-TV commentator and speaker on “The Politics of Sports Business.” He can be reached at evanjweiner@gmail.com His book, “The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition” is available at www.bickley.com and Amazon.com.

 

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