World Anti-Doping Agency needs commercial sponsorship

The World Anti-Doping Agency requires commercial sponsorship as a means of alleviating a drop in funding caused by the devalued American dollar.

WADA member countries are expecting an increase in fees over the next five years, with a 4 percent hike being introduced in 2008. Still, the Montreal-based agency is set for a 16-17 percent drop in returns since it's operating under the stronger Canadian dollar.

"With the shrinking dollar is a shrinking amount of what's available for the rest," WADA director general David Howman said Thursday at the Third World Conference on Doping in Sport.

An increase in membership fees is the easiest solution, but unlikely to arrive with the agency needing more money to keep its present standard of monitoring.

"The crucial issue is down to whether people are willing to step up and meet these costs," executive committee member Craig Reedie of Britain said. "We have to keep doing what we are currently doing if we want to win this fight (against doping)."

Even if the U.S. dollar recovers, that's no guarantee that the agency's cash reserves will provide enough to cover the difference in the meantime.

"If the U.S. dollar does not recover against the Canadian dollar, we will use more of our cash reserves to run the agency," Reedie said. "Obviously, we have to keep this under review."

Working with a charitable trust that would allow WADA to spread its message through educational methods is one idea to bring in extra cash, while a commercial sponsorship is also under review, with the pharmaceutical industry a prospective client.

Of course, such a venture has to treated carefully.

"It's difficult to do so because we need to maintain our independence and approaching a pharmaceutical company that produces EPO is a conflict if interest," Reedie said. "I'm not sure ourselves we have marketable rights that we can sell on the commercial marketplace."

But slapping a label warning on a bottle with anti-doping sticker on it is not a very attractive proposition to pharmaceutical companies, Howman said.

Commercial sponsorship possibilities were discussed in the agency's early days and could now be the "evolutionary" step the agency is looking for, WADA president Dick Pound said.

"(The members) understand that US$25 million a year is not enough to carry out the things we need to these days," he said. "I take it we now have a mandate to get inventive and go out and get looking for funds."

Countries that have signed up to the WADA code provide half of the agency's funding, with the Olympic movement matching that amount.

Reedie believes the agency needs to double its budget to complete its mission, with members unlikely to stump up more funds unless some other doping crisis - such as the Festina cycling scandal - occurs.

Jean Jacques Nzoghe of Gabon's Ministry of Youth and Sport said it would not be easy for all member countries to start paying higher fees.

"If we had the money, we would put in more," Nzoghe said. "But in Africa when you ask for more funds, even to get the approval means a process at an assembly level, which is no guarantee."

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Author`s name Angela Antonova