WADA President Calls Out USADA For Hypocrisy, “Playing Politics” After Congressional Hearing

After the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was dragged through the mud during a U.S. Congressional hearing on Tuesday, the global anti-doping authority’s president has responded.

On Tuesday, swimming legends Michael Phelps and Allison Schmitt, along with United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) CEO Travis Tygart, were among those to testify before the House Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation in Washington.

The hearing, entitled “Examining Anti-Doping Measures in Advance of the 2024 Olympics,” was primarily focused on WADA’s handling of the Chinese doping scandal that came to light in April, when it was revealed that 23 Chinese swimmers tested positive for the banned substance trimetazidine in early 2021 and yet were allowed to compete at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

WADA President Witold Banka, who was invited to the hearing but declined to attend, issued a statement in response on Wednesday, putting USADA under fire for its hypocrisy and attempts to politicize anti-doping in the United States rather than work towards bettering anti-doping efforts around the globe.

Update: Tygart responded to Banka with a statement of his own. See at the bottom of this article.

“The hearing sought to further politicize a relatively straightforward case of mass contamination that has been turned into a scandal by a small number of individuals, mainly in the United States,” said Banka. “It was another example of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) being dragged into a much broader struggle between two superpowers. As an independent and largely technical organization, WADA has no mandate to be part of those political debates.”

Although WADA’s handling of the Chinese doping case, which it says was due to “mass contamination”, has received heavy criticism over the last two months, Banka said his decision not to attend the hearing was because he “did not want to risk prejudicing the ongoing independent review of WADA’s handling of the case in question.”

WADA’s handling of the case is currently under review from independent prosecutor Eric Cottier, who Tygart and others have alleged was hand picked by WADA as he previously served as the attorney general for the Swiss canton of Vaud from 2005-22—WADA is a Swiss foundation.

Banka, 39, goes on to take direct aim at USADA and the “emotional and political rhetoric” observed in the hearing.

He says Tygart and others were claiming that other countries aren’t “playing by the rules,” but clapped back and alleged the United States isn’t without fault.

“WADA’s job as the global regulator for clean sport is to strive to ensure that athletes of the world enjoy the same protections, rights and responsibilities whether they are from Boston or Beijing,” Banka said.

“When we review cases, we must always think about what is fair to those athletes, whatever their sport and whatever their nationality.

“Conversely, the hearing in Washington D.C. was filled with the sort of emotional and political rhetoric that makes headlines but in fact does nothing constructive to strengthen the global anti-doping system. The talk, led by Travis Tygart of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), was all about how other countries and WADA were not playing by the rules.

“Given what we know about the anti-doping system within the U.S., one can’t help but think about the words of the American politician, Adlai E. Stevenson: ‘A hypocrite is the kind of politician who would cut down a redwood tree, then mount the stump and make a speech for conservation.’

Banka outlines the number of tests carried out by USADA in 2023, noting its less than half of the number done in Germany, and less than other nations such as France, Great Britain, Italy, China and Russia.

“In 2023, USADA collected 7,773 samples from 3,011 athletes, according to its own annual report. It is quite a disappointing result, considering the country’s population, high number of athletes and size of their Olympic team.

“With twice the budget, USADA collects less than half the number of samples as its counterpart in Germany. The French NADO also collects significantly more samples than USADA with a little more than one-third of the budget. USADA also collected less than the National Anti-Doping Organizations (NADOs) in China, Russia, Italy and Great Britain, as well as three international sports federations. Yet, to distract from its own failings, USADA tries to undermine U.S. athletes’ confidence in the integrity of their rivals overseas.

“One wonders how USADA uses its annual budget of more than USD 31 million, apart from hiring lobbyists and spending its valuable time attacking WADA and weakening the global anti-doping system.”

Banka also questioned USADA saying “justice was served” in the case of American sprinter Erriyon Knighton, who was cleared to compete at the U.S. Track & Field Trials just days before the start of the competition after initially being suspended for doping. Knighton was reinstated due to the positive test stemming from meat contamination.

Banka said USADA initially sought a four-year ban for Knighton and argued that the analytical findings were incompatible with meat contamination.

When Knighton was cleared, WADA publically said it was considering an appeal.

“It is particularly intriguing that USADA made this sudden U-turn in its opinion without even having seen the reasoned decision, which is not yet available. I cannot help but wonder what USADA would be saying if this had involved an athlete in China.”

USADA has also suggested that the U.S. government reduce its contribution to WADA, leading Banka to wonder if USADA thinks it will receive the money instead, attempting to make up for the loss of funding recently incurred with the UFC splitting from USADA late last year.

Banka, a Polish native and former Track & Field World Championship medalist in the men’s 4×400-meter relay, said if the U.S. pulled or reduced its funding to WADA, there would be significant ramifications, both for Americans and the global anti-doping efforts as a whole.

“Ultimately, it would be most harmful to American athletes as a drop in global funding would only serve to weaken the anti-doping system in other parts of the world where their competitors are based,” he said. “In the face of all the aggression and the hypocrisy, WADA will carry on regardless.”

Banka closes the statement by suggesting USADA is hurting sport by undermining athletes’ trust.

“There is much to be done together. Despite this, USADA’s attacks on WADA continue. Unfortunately, they do not just harm the global anti-doping system that USADA is bound to uphold; they are also hurting the athletes by undermining their trust in sport. They make athletes question, a month before the world’s biggest sports event, whether the competition is clean. USADA has deviated from its core mandate of managing anti-doping programs in the U.S. to playing politics at the expense of what should be their key stakeholder group, the athletes.

“They pit American athletes against other nations, dividing them into better and worse, into us and them. So long as I am President, I will push back against anyone who drags WADA into their political games and compromises the system that the global anti-doping community has spent 25 years building together – a system that is designed to serve athletes equally…worldwide.”

Read the full statement here.

Tygart responded to Banka with a statement of his own on Tuesday:

Full USADA Statement:

“It’s a sad day when WADA declines an invitation to testify under oath and hides behind press statements that attack and deflect and still do not answer the basic questions of why they allowed the cover up of 23 positive tests. Their defiance and fear mongering only further shows that they have lost their way as leaders, and while heartbreaking, they have no one to blame but themselves for causing the ongoing damage of the global anti-doping system.

As desperate as they are to make this about two superpowers, the reality is the WADA system failed Chinese athletes as well as athletes from around world. When funding countries investigate the misuse of taxpayer dollars it isn’t politics, it’s called accountability. WADA’s threats against the U.S. should be seen for what they are: nothing more than a desperate effort to suppress the truth. The U.S. House of Representatives have already cut WADA’s funding for 2025, and while this is not the final step, it’s time for WADA leaders to step out of their echo chamber and see that their ongoing bullying and deflection strategy is not working.

While they now admit CHINADA did not follow the rules, they have yet to answer for why they were complicit in this failure and sacrificed the rights of Chinese athletes and athletes worldwide. If WADA’s position is as they claim, then they should release the full China dossier and agree to go through a compliance audit as they require of others. And, while WADA wants to continue the race to the bottom and attack U.S. athletes and the anti-doping program in the U.S., they recently conducted a full in-person compliance audit on USADA and had glowing things to say about our program and efforts, so their statements now ring hollow.”

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David S
21 days ago

Good thing caffeine isn’t a drug, because I would be banned to infinity and beyond.

Genevieve Nnaji
21 days ago

“Banka outlines the number of tests carried out by USADA in 2023, noting its less than half of the number done in Germany, and less than other nations such as France, Great Britain, Italy, China and Russia.”

😱

Snarky
21 days ago

Whataboutisms never won an argument.

Reid
21 days ago

USADA is ultimately irrelevant here. WADA already admitted to the coverup, CONFIRMING the story was broken by the New York Times. USADA may be inefficient/corrupt/political/whatever, but this is pure deflection.

Awsi Dooger
21 days ago

I enjoyed the long scroll to the bottom because it was guaranteed that Tygart’s response would be instantly more devastating and effective than all of the WADA drivel.

How can you be too scared to attend the hearing yet think anything you say matters subsequently?

Maybe if you were stupid enough to believe a 23 pronged cover up would be met with a shrug

Just Keep Swimming
Reply to  Awsi Dooger
21 days ago

“Too scared to attend the hearing”. Have you ever watched a congressional hearing? It’s uneducated politicians asking questions to experts that make no sense and then when experts answer the politicians just ignore them. It’s meaningless political theatre.

Dressel_42.8
Reply to  Just Keep Swimming
21 days ago

No hearings matter because you are under oath and have to answer direct lines of questioning. Online responses allow you to carefully craft a response that doesn’t really address anything.

Genevieve Nnaji
Reply to  Awsi Dooger
21 days ago

Have you watched US congressional hearing?

A bunch of orangutans are more intelligent and make more sense.

This is just a tiny example:

https://youtu.be/RgLQCfypDLk

RangerCoach
Reply to  Awsi Dooger
11 days ago

A member of Congress recently spent his time questioning a man from Singapore about his connection to China even after the man from Singapore said like five or six times that he is not from China but from Singapore and the two are not the same.

A different member of Congress showed naked pictures of the president’s son in some weird attempt to connect the drug use to the president.

Many of the members of Congress can barely figure out how to do their job.

june
21 days ago

Looking at Chinese governmental statement CHINADA hits back at politicization of contamination case involving Chinese swimmers-Xinhua (news.cn)

It’s the same tone with WADA’s “politicalize the issue” and exact the same word “emotional and political rhetoric”,
The same attack on US of less tests in 2023. Really hard not to believe the responses were prepared by the same team.

The best result of the case it to have better and independent investigations by orgs not hired by WADA. If they can draw a scientific conclusion that everything is possible, like USADA said, we can tell the other athletes, you won a silver or bronze fairly.

SwimGuy
21 days ago

The biggest issue for me is that, the findings(regarding Chinese swimmers testing positive at Tokyo) were made public significantly later and that based on new reports, the Chinese athletes themselves weren’t even notified.

Not to say both sides aren’t guilty here(USADA and WADA), they both need to get their act together

Noah Fence
21 days ago

In conclusion, WADA bad but also USADA bad. Furthermore, CHINADA bad.

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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