Watchdog accuses White House of ignoring the doping war

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The Independent Online

The head of the World Anti-Doping Agency has accused the White House of showing no interest in fightingdrugs in sports - and warned that New York's 2012 Olympic bid could suffer as a result.

The Wada president Dick Pound said the Bush administration's lack of support could also lead to sanctions against the US team at next year's Athens Olympics.

"There's just a complete vacuum and void there as far as we're concerned," Pound said. "Our sense is they're not the slightest bit interested in this issue."

He said the US, Italy and Ukraine were yet to pay their annual dues to Wada, which is jointly funded by the Olympic movement and national governments. Wada, which was created in 1999, has taken less than two-thirds of its funding for 2003 - about US$13m (£8.1m) of its US$20m budget. The contributions were due by the beginning of this year.

Payment of the US funds has been held up by the passage of the federal budget in Congress. Pound said the US government had promised to pay $1m this year, but that Wada was told yesterday by a junior White House drug office employee that the figure would be only $US800,000.

"We are in a period of increasingly Kafka-like relationship with the United States government," Pound said. "We've had great support from the Congressional side, but vis-à-vis the White House we are just striking out and are very disappointed in the lack of leadership being demonstrated."

Pound, a Canadian lawyer, said the White House position was "all the more inexplicable" considering the recent doping developments in the United States. He cited positive tests for the designer steroid THG and the stimulant modafinil, as well as drug controversies involving USA Track & Field, the US Olympic Committee, Major League Baseball and the NFL.

"At some point or the other I would have thought the litmus paper would change colour at the White House but it hasn't," Pound said.

Jennifer de Vallance, spokeswoman for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, called Pound's comments "disingenuous and unproductive".

She said: "This is out of left field. We work with his staff on a regular and close basis. I'm a little mystified that he feels that way."