By Steve Keating
BIRMINGHAM, England (Reuters) – The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) believes the time is right to finally get U.S. college and professional sports to recognise the anti-doping Code and has proposed a road map to jump start the effort, president Witold Banka told Reuters.
U.S. college and professional sports have long been viewed as a black hole by anti-doping officials with spotty testing and punishments often cloaked in secrecy.
The U.S. is a signatory to the WADA Code but as private businesses the National Football League, Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association and National Hockey League are not bound by the rules sport federations must adhere to in order to allow American athletes to compete internationally.
While WADA would like to see all U.S. sport recognise the Code, the anti-doping body believes getting the NCAA, the governing body for college sport, on board is the place to start.
Many U.S. Olympians in sports from athletics to gymnastics come out of the college system and are already subject to regular testing.
Banka said the subject was discussed at a recent meeting with the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) where the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) and the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) responded positively.
“Maybe the major leagues are more problematic, a different animal, because they are private business but the NCAA is a good example of an institution that should be a co-signatory,” Banka told Reuters during a visit to the Birmingham Commonwealth Games. “We proposed some road maps for them.
“It was our initiative to encourage them and to start working the NCAA.
“It should be one of the main goals of USADA, it is their responsibility, it is their own backyard.”
The U.S. and USADA have often been quick to condemn other countries and anti-doping bodies, such as WADA, for not being tough enough on drug cheats.
In 2020 the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act was signed into law by then U.S. president Donald Trump allowing the United States to prosecute individuals for doping schemes at international events involving American athletes, sponsors or broadcasters.
The global response to U.S. criticism has been that the United States should get its own doping house in order, pointing to the lack of serious testing in North American professional sports.
“I think it is time to think about collaboration and how we can encourage them (the NCAA and U.S. professional sports) to be co-signatories.” said Banka. “It should be the initiative of USADA and the USOPC and they have to express a willingness to do it because we cannot force them to do it.
“I told them we are very open to start working with you but the ball is in their court now.”
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Birmingham; Editing by Ken Ferris)