By Odogun Yishawu |
Japan is serious to hold the 2020 Olympics and Paralympic in Tokyo this year. The Covid-19 pandemic forced the country to postpone the Games last year, rescheduling them for July 23 through Aug. 8, 2021. Japan’s Prime Minister Saga Yoshihide told delegates at the World Economic Forum that the postponed Summer Games will serve as ”Proof of mankind’s victory over the virus”.
That triumph hasn’t yet happened. Vaccine roll-outs started in Japan on February 17 this year, with the government reportedly dispensing 40,000 pfizer vaccines to frontline health workers. But experts say Japan won’t reach herd immunity from vaccines before the Olympics start in July. Meanwhile many countries are still struggling to get their daily numbers under control even as the World Anti-Dopping Agency (WADA) is still struggling to affirm its credibility as the world organ responsible for clean sport, fair play, and effective administration of the world anti-doppingsystem and punish those who cheat athletic competitions with performance – enhancing drugs.
The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) in June last year issued recommendations in a report to U.S Congress, offering a stern critique to the structure and governance of the anti-dopping body threatening to cut off funding to the World Anti-Dopping Agency unless it reforms according to its dictate. The United States contributes $2.7 million annually to WADA, more than any other nation, according to the report. The International Olympic Committee matches government funding, so the U.S contribution helps generate reportedly more than $5.4 million annually, about 14.5 percent of WADA’s budget.
The National Drug Control Policy suggested in its report that representation on the Board of WADA should be tied to funding even when allocating seats exclusively to the highest funders would eliminate the majority of nations of the world from ever holding a seat. Observers believe the report is a result of the United State Anti-Dopping Agency’s (USADA) game plan to avoid comprehensive inspection of its activities by WADA.
This is because of the increasing numbers of U.S athletes involved in dopping scandals. For example in March 2020, U.S Cycling Athlete, John Gleaves, 36, accepted a four-year suspension for anti-dopping rule violation by USADA. Madisyn Cox, a U.S. National Team Swimmer, was given a 2-year dopping suspension after Trimetazidine appeared in an out of competition dopping test. Her period of sanction began on March 3rd, 2018, the date of her last race, and ended on March 2nd 2020.
Expressing disappointment at the Drug Control Policy report regarding WADA funding, the Agency said it was troubled by the fact that ONDCP made allegations towards the Agency without due regards for the facts or context and without having raised any of these concerns during WADA Board meetings it has been a foundation member since 1999.
The Agency therefore prepared an annoted version of the Report outlining the misleading information,omissions in terms of factual information and inaccuracies in the report. The Agency then sent this annoted version to the Drug Control Policy Director asking him to kindly transmit this version to the U.S Congress so that the Congress can deliberate and decide on WADA’s future funding based on accurate information.
The U.S fund – withdrawal threat to WADA has rattled the anti-dopping community and caused several governments to urge WADA to consider an amendment to its compliance standard that would find the U.S non compliant with the WADA code if it follows through on the threat. Non-payment by a government of its WADA contribution could lead directly to the country’s National Anti-Dopping Organization being declared non-compliant with the World Anti-dopping code.
The International Olympic Committee (IDC) rules stipulate there needs to be WADA compliance to allow Games participation. Every Olympic Games participants must comply with the IDC. Executive Board’s entry process, including the signing of the entry form, which includes an obligation to comply with the Olympic Charter and World Anti-DoppingCode and submit disputes to the Court of Arbitration for Sports jurisdiction.
Inevitably the consequence of a withdrawal of WADA Funding by the U.S would effectively bar American athletes from the Olympics and other major international sporting events. Over 500 U.S athletes are expected at the Tokyo Olympics.
However despite lingering uncertainty as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in Japan and other parts of the world, the Tokyo 2020 in 2021 organizers reportedly insist the Games are on. The alarm bells are ominous as medical experts warn that the Olympics could become a super-spreader event even as organizersdecided recently to bar international spectators even if there are vaccinated in order to ensure the safest Olympics possible. The Tokyo organizing committee is currently swamped by leadership crisis with the President, Yosuhiro Mori, forced to resign following backlash over sexist comments he made suggesting women talk too much in meetings. The President of Japan’s Olympic Committee, Yasuhiro Yamashita, was indicted on corruption charges related to the bidding process. All these could further complicate the delayed Games .
With the Olympic torch relay begun on March 12 2021, the opening ceremony scheduled on July 23 2020, Japan’s government is defying the wishes of much of the public. In polls, close to 80 percent are reportedly saying the Games should be postponedagain or cancelled outright due to the pandemic.
The threats to the Tokyo Summer Games long predated the Covid-19 pandemic. Two years after winning the bid, the government abandoned a sleek stadium design by a famous architect, Zaha Hadid, because the cost had gone up to more than $2 billion. After work on a cheaper stadium design began, a construction supervisor died by suicide after overwork.
– Yishawa is a retired sports administrator and writes from Abuja