IMMAF chief cites political bias in WADA rejection

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) seeks to organize amateur mixed martial arts worldwide, with an eye towards inclusion in the Olympic games. It once seems a pipe dream; however, the Olympic committee understands that the games need to appeal to the younger generation. Thus the 2020 Summer Olympics, in Tokyo, Japan, will have Karate, baseball/softball, skateboarding, sports climbing, and surfing. MMA is the world’s fastest growing sport, and would be a natural addition.

The IMMAF, under the direction of chief executive Densign White, is one of six international federations that have applied for membership in SportAccord, a necessary step for inclusion in the Olympic games. In determining admission suitability, SportAccord considers governance, universality, promotion and finance, development, and anti-doping. The applying organization must be recognized by the World Anti-Doping Agency Code as being in Compliance.

White applied to WADA for recognition that they are code compliant, but the application was rejected, a step White bitterly characterized as “politically driven.”

“We are working hard for IMMAF recognition with the umbrella organisations SportAccord and AIMS,” wrote White in a statement. “We submitted an application for the former in August and also in June we submitted our WADA application. Unfortunately the WADA application was not successful because the umbrella organisations advised WADA not to grant us signatory status. This decision of course is not based on our compliance with the WADA code because we are compliant. This decision is politically driven by other sports that want to protect their position within the Olympic family and see the growth of MMA as a threat to their own survival. As you might expect from your CEO and your President we will fight tooth and nail to win our place for MMA at the top table and work on a new strategy has already begun.”

 

Nick Butler for Inside the Games identifies other combat sports, notably Judo, as the likely source of the block.

When the British Judo Association entered into a sponsorship with the UFC, the European Judo Union stripped Glasgow, Scotland of the 2015 European Championships, just eight weeks before the event. The EJU claimed the UFC does not meet their “values.” The event was moved to Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, where the dictatorship’s values were apparently more in accord with those of the EJU.

IMMAF President Kerrith Brown had been president of the British Judo Association, and stepped down after the event was moved. Brown was highly critical of the recent WADA decision.

“We knew politics would be involved,” said Brown to IMMAF.org. “But it’s astonishing and wrong how WADA cannot make a decision for themselves, based on merit. The popularity of MMA means that other sports bodies see us as a threat to their own goals and fear our momentum towards becoming an Olympic Sport. They fear that we will steal the limelight and that their funding could diminish. This is linked to the situation with French Judo who have the ear of France’s Sports Minister, resulting in the recent ban on MMA competition through an undemocratic process.

“From the offset there was no support or clarification from WADA, even when we first reached out to discuss IMMAF’s application. We were repeatedly asked for information that had had already been provided. It’s incompetent.”

“IMMAF prides itself on transparency, but there has been no sight of this from WADA. It’s a closed system with no rationale. Our follow up has been met with a vague response. From what has been said, it seems there is no proper policy or process from here.”

“We will continue to show leadership, and the merit and effort shown by IMMAF will continue as a driver for clarity. We will not be pushed into a corner and shall continue to pursue this.”

And MMA continues to appeal, hugely and ever growing, to the next generation.