New WADA President Wants Sponsors to Help Finance Antidoping Efforts

KATOWICE, Poland — Witold Banka, the sports minister of Poland and president-elect of the World Anti-Doping Agency, is full of ideas. His biggest one, though, might be a tough sell.

Banka, who at 35 is less than half the age of the man he will succeed on Jan. 1, this week proposed the creation of a so-called solidarity mechanism that would provide drug testing in parts of the world where, currently, it is almost nonexistent. It is a bold initiative, and an expensive one, but Banka is proposing that it be financed by corporate sponsors.

“This is ridiculous we have less than $40 million and we are the global regulator of antidoping,” Banka said. That figure is a reference to WADA’s budget, which is made up of contributions from public bodies — the largest contribution comes from the United States — and the International Olympic Committee.

Banka, a former 400-meter runner, said this week that sponsors should kick in, too. He raised the idea of a solidarity fund in remarks Tuesday at a WADA conference held in his hometown, then expanded on his proposal in an interview with The New York Times on Wednesday.

While his optimism was abundant, the likelihood of success may be low. A similar fund-raising arm created by WADA several years ago — also aimed at drawing in private-sector donations — yielded nothing. And when Banka revealed his initial proposal this week, the head of global sponsorships at Coca-Cola — among the biggest investors in global sports — took to social media to say any conversation seeking funds would likely be “very brief.”

The I.O.C. this week pledged to provide as much as $10 million more to WADA, but that is not enough to fulfill all the requirements placed on the organization to police doping around the world. WADA also continues to struggle with the aftermath of the 2015 Russian doping scandal, and next month it is expected to make a decision on Russia’s latest transgressions, which could lead to a new, more sweeping sporting suspension for the country.

It was when the Russian scandal first broke that WADA’s outgoing president, Craig Reedie, went public with longstanding complaints bemoaning how a lack of financial firepower was preventing WADA from fulfilling its mission. Reedie, 78, said at the time that sponsors and media companies in the $145 billion sports industry also needed to play a part in keeping sports clean.

Reedie said then that he would begin knocking on the doors of the biggest corporations to ask for contributions. But as he plans to depart, those efforts have been met with silence.

“The problem with the corporate world is WADA doesn’t provide the corporate world with any marketable benefits,” Reedie said, conceding that he may have been too ambitious in his plans. He suggested Banka would do better reaching out to officials he knows who have access to government coffers.

The demands on WADA are higher than ever. Doping investigations in Russia and elsewhere have at times overwhelmed its investigative arm, while attempts to hack WADA’s computer systems have required expensive investments in defending against cyberattacks.

“I am not naïve, I am optimistic,” said Banka, who became Poland’s sports minister at 31. He suggested he had a commitment from the head of Poland’s main oil company to contribute to his antidoping fund, which he said would focus mostly on countries, particularly in Africa, where he said precompetition testing programs are inadequate or nonexistent.

“We are forgetting it’s not fair on athletes from the United States, Britain, Poland or Germany which are from countries with strong antidoping policies that they are competing with athletes from countries without controls.”

Banka has been more tight-lipped when it comes to WADA’s ongoing dispute with Russia. He said he did not want to prejudge the most recent investigation, in which Russia is accused of making thousands of changes to an athlete database in an effort to cover up failed drug tests by former athletes.

WADA investigators are in the process of making a final submission to a committee led by a British lawyer, Jonathan Taylor. That committee will make a recommendation to WADA’s board about whether Russia should face new penalties, which could include a ban from global sports. Taylor told The Times in September that Russia would need to “pull a rabbit out of the hat” to provide a legitimate explanation for manipulating the database.

Banka, at least this week, was urging caution. “Please wait for the future decision,” he said. “I need to remind you my term in office starts Jan. 1 next year. My attitude to this case and other cases regarding antidoping will be very tough.”

Like his departing colleagues, though, Banka said he had concerns — which are shared by the International Olympic Committee — over proposed legislation in the United States that would criminalize international doping conspiracies.

Banka said that although he supports some aspects to the legislation, which has passed the House of Representatives and now requires Senate approval, its implications need to be better understood. If passed, the act would give the United States authorities far-reaching powers to tackle international sporting bodies.

Globally, sports officials have been wary of the reach of American law enforcement since 2015, when the Department of Justice unveiled a sweeping indictment and arrested dozens of officials linked to soccer’s global governing body, FIFA.

“WADA has some concerns about extraterritoriality,” Banka said, declining to elaborate.