Sir Craig Reedie is fighting for his future as President of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) after receiving a devastating attack from leading sporting officials at the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) General Assembly on Wednesday.
WADA announced the suspension of the Doha Laboratory on Monday (November 14) for a four-month period on the eve of this crucial meeting attended by International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach and representatives from more than 200 National Olympic Committees.
The timing, which Sir Craig claimed was unintentional, was seen as having been deliberately planned to cause maximum impact and publicity.
Like at the IOC Session in Rio de Janeiro in August, today’s criticism of WADA appeared to be orchestrated by the IOC and deliberately designed to undermine Sir Craig.
His report to the ANOC General Assembly was followed by nine questions from the floor as this and other decisions made by WADA in recent months were attacked.
Sheikh Ahmad’s closing intervention was the most telling, however.
“There were questions of timing with the report [by RIchard McLaren on Russian doping],” he told delegates.
“And now we see it again with Doha, not because of cheating but because of procedures.
“I am now worried that the McLaren Report will come out in the first week of December during the IOC Executive Board, or the day afterwards.”
It was later claimed by an ANOC spokesman that he was not specifically calling for the removal of Sir Craig but for an independent chair to spearhead the ongoing reform procedures.
The IOC claim to have told Sir Craig last week that they are seeking an “independent” WADA President in the future.
Coming just a week after the IOC endorsed Sir Craig for a fresh three-year term as President, Sheikh Ahmad’s comments are sure to be closely analysed at the WADA Foundation Board and Executive Committee meetings in Glasgow on November 19 and 20.
Current WADA rules stipulate that the Presidency shifts on a rotating basis between sport and institutions so, if Sir Craig was replaced, it appears his replacement would come from outside the Olympic Movement, probably a Government representative.
Sir Craig apologized for what had happened over the suspension of the Laboratory in Qatar.
He told insidethegames afterwards that he had received a letter of complaint from Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC) President Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad Al Thani.
“I apologize fully that this happened – it was not intentional,” Sir Craig said.
“I decided that the process should be finished on Wednesday last week (November 9), I hoped it would be finished before the General Assembly in Doha.”
The Briton spoke to Sheikh Ahmad afterwards and also had a private meeting with IOC President Thomas Bach.
“I understand there are concerns with decisions that have been made, but he accepted what I had to say and we will now continue with our reforms,” he told insidethegames.
It is the latest episode in a remarkable period of turbulence between WADA and the Olympic Movement.
In July WADA called for a blanket Russian ban from Rio 2016 in response to allegations of state-sponsored doping in the country, including at Sochi 2014.
The IOC rejected this “nuclear option” and instead handed responsibility to International Federations to make decisions.
Sir Craig was ostracized at the IOC Session on the eve of Rio 2016 before another period of public feuding followed in September and October as deliberations took place over how best to reform the global anti-doping system.
Today marked the most extreme episode yet, however.
Leading critics included Spanish Olympic Committee President Alejandro Blanco.
“What is the objective of WADA?” he said.
“It must not be to tell sports institutions what they should be doing, like telling the IOC to sanction all Russian athletes.
“We have to ensure we are not affected by opinions which create a bad image of us in sport.”
Spain is widely considered to have one of the worst doping records in Europe and its poor record on the subject is believed to have contributed to the failure of Madrid, the bid led by Blanco, to be awarded the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Spain is also among several countries declared “non-compliant” by WADA after the country failed to adapt its legislation because it did not have a functioning Government.
Delegates from Sudan, Uruguay and Senegal made similar interjections before Russian Olympic Committee President Alexander Zhukov urged WADA to help “restore trust and transparency.
By Nick Butler
Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz.