Doping survey: National agencies more transparent than WADA

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FILE - In this March 3, 2020, file photo, commuters walk along a sidewalk as a poster celebrating the Tokyo 2020 Olympics is seen in foreground in Tokyo. The tentacles of cancelling the Tokyo Olympics or postponing or staging it in empty venues would reach into every corner of the globe, much like the spreading virus that now imperils the opening ceremony on July 24. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

A survey of Olympic and other elite athletes across the globe found them more likely to believe in the work their own country's anti-doping agencies are doing when compared to that of global regulators at the World Anti-Doping Agency.

A total of 491 athletes spread across 48 countries were asked a series of questions about the overall effectiveness of anti-doping organizations, and the answers led to the following conclusions: WADA has work to do to gain their trust; national anti-doping agencies are more reliable than WADA; and there is not enough separation between WADA and the International Olympic Committee, which supplies half of the organization's funds.

The athlete advocacy group Global Athlete sponsored the survey, which, notably, did not garner any responses from Russia or China, where some of the most high-profile doping cases have emerged over the last several years.

Last month, Chinese Olympic swimming champion Sun Yang received an eight-year ban as the result of an appeal brought by WADA to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. WADA was applauded for standing up to swimming's international federation in that case. But its role in the ongoing Russian doping saga has been widely criticized. WADA refused to recommend a blanket ban of the Russian team for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics despite evidence of tampering with data that Russia handed over to help prosecute cases stemming from the country's original plot to cheat at the 2014 Sochi Games.

A WADA spokesman said the agency was not surprised at the responses and would take heed of the survey but also suspected that the questions “appear to be drafted in order to produce a particular response rather than in a neutral tone.”

“When it comes to an overall assessment of anti-doping system, we have long acknowledged that the polarizing Russian doping crisis, in particular, has had an impact on athletes’ perceptions,” WADA spokesman James Fitzgerald said.

Despite the steady drumbeat of headlines involving the Russia probe and others, 60 percent of respondents to the survey said they either completely or mostly trusted the international anti-doping system.

But when asked if WADA works transparently, only 30 percent said yes, while 43 percent said no and the remaining 27 percent said they had no opinion. Asked the same question about national anti-doping agencies, which regulate policies and testing in the individual countries, 58 percent said yes, compared to 15 percent who said no and 27 percent with no opinion.