WADA founder Pound says 'disgusted' by USADA 'lies' over China cases

Former President of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), Dick Pound hit out at the US Anti Doping Agency in a meeting on Friday. (JUSTIN TALLIS)
Former President of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), Dick Pound hit out at the US Anti Doping Agency in a meeting on Friday. (JUSTIN TALLIS)

The former president of the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA), Canadian Dick Pound, launched a fierce attack on the United States anti-doping body USADA on Friday, accusing them of "lies and distortions" and seeking to undermine WADA.

Pound's comments came during an extraordinary meeting of the WADA Foundation Board, held online, to discuss the fall-out from the case of 23 Chinese swimmers who tested positive for a prescription heart drug.

WADA came under fire in April after it was revealed that the Chinese swimmers tested positive for trimetazidine -- which can enhance performance -- ahead of the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

The swimmers were not suspended or sanctioned after WADA accepted the explanation of Chinese authorities that the results were caused by food contamination at a hotel where they had stayed.

The head of USADA, Travis Tygart, has called the situation a "potential cover-up" with the positive tests never made public at the time.

"On behalf of WADA, I am deeply disappointed and disgusted by the deliberate lies and distortions coming from USADA, including that WADA has swept doping cases in China under the rug," said Pound, a lawyer who was the first president of WADA but retired at the end of 2020.

"That accusation, bereft of any truth, has but a single purpose, to deliberately damage the reputation of WADA and to lessen the worldwide trust that has been built up since WADA was created a quarter of a century ago to head up the international fight against doping in sport.

"The claim that WADA has in some way inappropriately favored China is completely false. WADA applies the World Anti-Doping Code and the related standards in an even-handed way," he said.

Pound said that WADA's past actions against doping cases in Russia proved that "superpowers are treated the same way" as other nations.

The former swimmer, who remains an honorary member of the International Olympic Committee, suggested that USADA's actions may have a political dimension.

"USADA is financed by the United States government. That government is currently in a chilly relationship with China's government. Could there be a connection?" he asked.

WADA has asked an independent prosecutor to examine the case and publish a report but Pound urged them to go further.

"My suggestion is twofold," he said, directly addressing WADA president Witold Banka.

"First, to wait for the report of the independent investigator and then to institute legal proceedings claiming significant damages against USADA since there must be serious consequences arising from its outrageous conduct," he said.

- 'Nothing was hidden' -

Tygart responded to Pound's comments in an email to AFP.

"While the founding president of WADA did great work in setting up WADA in the early days of the agency, WADA changed dramatically in the years after he left.

"He has not been WADA President for years now, and for the current leadership to use him in this way shows you that they will pull out all the stops to try to divert from the truth, defaulting to smoke and mirrors instead of transparency," he said.

Pound noted that China had brought the cases to WADA, saying they had not benefited in any way from the situation and said "nothing was hidden".

"The Chinese investigation led to a conclusion of contamination, not doping. The evidence pointed firmly in that direction. None pointed to doping," he said.

Banka, who noted he had previously been attacked by Russian officials, also took aim at USADA.

"There are gaps in harmonising anti-doping policy globally...including in the United States where the great majority of these unsubstantiated and defamatory attacks have been coming from," said Banka.

"In the U.S, 90 per cent of American athletes, those in the professional leagues and college sport, do not compete under the World Anti-Doping Code.

"31 per cent of American athletes under the code were not sufficiently tested in the 12-month period prior to the Tokyo Games, according to the data which is available to us," he added.

Tygart issued a statement in response to the meeting, which had included numerous statements of support for WADA.

"As predicted, WADA is much better at circling the wagons than they are at actually being transparent. The fact is that WADA leaders violated their own rules by, at a minimum, not finding any violations or publicizing the cases.

"Today’s meeting further demonstrated that the global anti-doping system is as broken as ever and needs immediate reform. Instead of threats and attacks, we call on WADA to actually lead by taking action and to provide real answers by producing the full China file for the world to evaluate," he added.