Tokyo Games Endangered: no fair play?

By Dominik Sikora
Oct. 10, 2019

We are just several months away from the begging of the Tokyo Summer Olympics in 2020. Preparation is in full swing, sports facilities are being prepared or are already ready handed over. The Olympic village is almost brought to brilliance. Most of the work has already been done and everything is almost ready for the most important competition of the four-year period. However, this is not quite true. No matter how much we talk about the Games in common, about the work of architects, volunteers and global companies. The issue is that the Games cannot go smoothly if the leadership of all world Sports struggle with chaos, confusion and mess.

There is no clear understanding of the direction in which the world sports movement should develop, there is no tough policy regarding violation of anti-doping rules. Moreover, the IOC leadership in general is not taking part in solving critical issues of modern sports.

Currently, two structures rule the Sports in general: IOC and WADA. These organizations, which must ensure the impartiality and purity of world sports, are in fact not so impartial. WADA, since the moment of foundation received funding from the International Olympic Committee ($ 18.3 million per year). Currently, the IOC finances WADA only in a half. The rest part is received from governments around the world. You do not have to be a great detective to find out that the bulk of the money comes from the United States, Britain and Canada. The United States is the largest sponsor of WADA - about 7 percent of the agency’s total budget. However, in May 2019, it became known that the United States may any funding increases for the World Anti-Doping Agency conditional on governance reforms and greater transparency:

We need to make sure that consolidating this funding will enable a more rigorous review process for any proposed increases in WADA dues amounts. This will ensure that WADA operates with increased transparency and begins to utilize models of good governance, including addressing potential conflicts of interest and increasing the role of athletes in agency decision-making.”

If this statement is not considered as an attempt to put pressure on an “independent” organization, then we can forget about the belief in the impartiality of the world sports movement.

Let’s move to the International Olympic Committee. The situation is much more interesting here. The IOC's sole source of funding is the private sector. The IOC launched an Olympic partnership program targeted at large international corporations. For significant money, sponsors receive the exclusive status of the Games partner. A separate company is promoting Olympic symbols. The IOC works closely with large sports companies, promoting products not only for professional, but also for mass sports. IOC revenue is estimated at tens of billions of dollars. Needless to say, most companies are located in the American continent.

At the first glance, the whole picture is blurred for an average person, but with a more detailed look it becomes crisp and clear. Decisions are made by people who are somehow connected with the "omnipotent American machine” either in the IOC, or WADA. America can easily help concrete athletes, and trample others, cover doping failures of the necessary ones, and flaunt even the slightest violations of arch rivals.

In order not to stoop to unfounded accusations, let us recall the situation that occurred in the early summer of 2019. The Athletes for CARE, a non-profit organization that advocates for research into cannabis as a treatment for brain injury and other health issues, an open letter to WADA, signed by 150 athletes, on the legalization of cannabis in world sports. Mike Tyson, Jake Plummer, Ricky Williams and Floyd Landis are among more than 150 current and former athletes (football players, rugby players, cyclists) who support a petition to remove marijuana from the World Anti-Doping Agency’s prohibited substances list. 2/3 of the athletes are Americans. It’s worth adding that the organization itself is also based in the United States. In the USA, Canada and some “progressive countries” of Europe, marijuana is legalized. This is the business of the countries themselves and their citizens. However, the legalization of drug substances in sports is a completely different story. What about athletes from most countries where marijuana is prohibited by law? Americans do not care.

However, the United States loves to act not directly, but through various organizations and movements. Thus, at the end of September 2019, the Global Athlete movement WADA President Sir Craig Ridi, WADA Director General Olivier Niggli and WADA Compliance Committee Chairman Jonathan Taylor to immediately resign from their posts. According to the participants of the movement, the leadership of WADA could not protect pure athletes, stop the constant corruption of the Olympic movement, establish communication with the community of athletes, provide a credible path forward and did not take decisive measures to eliminate systematic failures. One thing is clear in this situation: WADA needs to be reformed. Without it, athletes will not be able to confidently say that the Games are held in a competitive and fair play. However, it is clear that the American plans to reform WADA and provide the agency with independence from the IOC will make modern sport even more corrupt and dependent. European representatives in the IOC, as well as members of the National Olympic Committees, should take a clear position in protecting the global sports movement. They should advocate for reform of the international anti-doping control system, as well as form an independent anti-doping authority under the auspices of the IOC, which will not depend on US hegemony.

Without these measures, no competition can be considered as fair, and the results as unbiased. If all power is in the hands of the United States, there can be no question of protecting the interests of athletes from other countries.