Sports Anti-Doping Agency to Seek Private Funding for First Time

  • WADA looks to double budget to $60 million as changes loom
  • Group to pursue contributions from pharmaceutical industry

The World Anti-Doping Agency is turning to private funding for the first time as it prepares to assume more power in the fight against drugs in sports.

Those changes won’t come cheap, said Director General Olivier Niggli, who oversees a budget of around $30 million. For WADA to keep pace with the shifting landscape of doping, and the increased need for research and investigative power, “the budget would need to double, easy,” he said Thursday.

Olivier Niggli

Photographer: Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

To help offset costs, WADA is pursuing private funding from the pharmaceutical industry, foundations and wealthy individuals. It is setting up a U.S.-based nonprofit, the Foundation for Clean Sport, to help raise money, an option that gives companies and individuals a tax break for their contributions. WADA also would like the ability to levy fines for violations, which would generate funds to augment the agency’s budget.

Based in Montreal, WADA was formed in 1999 to combat drug use in sports. It is funded in part by international governments and by the International Olympic Committee, which matches funds raised around the world. 

Niggli, who took over in July, said WADA previously hadn’t sought private funding because of concerns over conflicts of interest or fear that it would result in less funding from international governments. 

Exhausted Reserves

The situation is more dire now, he said. WADA once kept a pool of money for unexpected expenses. Yet those reserves are gone as a result of its investigation into state-sponsored doping in Russia, which has cost WADA more than $2.5 million. If another major investigation became necessary, “we would need to prioritize that over something else,” Niggli said.

WADA officials will meet in Scotland next month to lay out a framework for its new structure and determine what the initiatives will cost. The discussion will include the creation of a new drug-testing authority to handle Olympic doping, possible changes to reinforce the group’s independence, more protections for whistle-blowers, a stronger investigative unit, and more thorough data privacy.

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