March 14, 2016 / 9:18 AM / 3 years ago

Athletes and public are demanding answers, says WADA president

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (Reuters) - Global sport’s anti-doping agency WADA says it needs more funding to help root out cheats and wants sponsors and broadcasters to help foot the bill.

A woman walks into the head office for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in Montreal, November 9, 2015. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi

WADA president Craig Reedie said the agency’s basic annual budget was around 27 million dollars, less than some individual sportsmen earn in a year.

“I think at the end of the day most of the world thinks that clean sport would be a good idea and perhaps now we could encourage them (sponsors) to help bring it about,” he told Reuters on the sidelines of a WADA conference.

“I think we have to say to very successful commercial companies, for example the pharmaceutical companies with whom we work very closely, there is a real interest here for you and for us.”

Athletics, the showpiece sport of the Olympic Games, was rocked last year when Russia was suspended from the sport after a WADA investigation revealed a state-sponsored doping program.

Tennis was also hit last week when five-times grand slam champion Maria Sharapova revealed that she had tested positive for the banned substance meldonium.

“The difficulty comes from the never-ending list of things we have to do,” Reedie said.

“It’s become quite apparent that as greater pressures appear, we need to find other sources of revenue.

“It’s possible to get evidence that one athlete can earn more in one year than the WADA annual budget which I think is a reasonably interesting comparison,” he said, adding that WADA was understaffed and had an IT system that was 10 years out of date.

WADA director general David Howman said a bigger budget would help the organization become more proactive.

“You might look at broadcasting and say can we get 0.2 percent of the annual broadcast fees they’re giving out to sport,” he told Reuters.

“Most of my life has involved waking up in the morning and reacting to what happened overnight and I would prefer to get out in front; we could do that with more information we might get, inquiry and gathering information.”

The world athletics governing body (IAAF) said on Friday that Russia still had “significant work to do” before it could be reinstated to the sport, which brought an angry reaction from the country’s sports minister Vitaly Mutko.

WADA said, however, that it had a working relationship with Mutko who said Russia had already done enough to be allowed back.

“At the end of the day, I don’t think anybody in Russia is particularly happy with what has happened,” Reedie said.

“I’m actually quite pleased with the reaction we’ve had from Russia, the minister understands this is a problem... and it’s a question of how quickly it can be resolved.”

Earlier, Reedie told the conference that the public’s confidence in sport had been “shattered like never before” last year.

“Sport has had its wake-up call. Sport must ensure better governance if public and athletes are to uphold confidence in system.”

IAAF President Sebastian Coe, a former Olympic gold medalist who headed the organizing committee for the London Olympics, described his current job as “the chunkiest challenge I have faced.”

He repeated his view that even first-time offenders should get life bans.

“My natural instinct is to get the cheat out of sport for life,” he said.

“My job is not to be particularly concerned about the civil rights of the cheats, it’s to protect the clean athletes.”

Editing by Ed Osmond

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