DOHA (Reuters) – The World Anti-Doping Agency and its head Craig Reedie faced stinging criticism from national Olympic committees on Wednesday for its handling of the Russian doping scandal, days before its board meeting where the Scot is up for re-election.
Reedie, speaking to the general assembly of the Association of National Olympic committees (ANOC), said these were “troubled times” after the Russian doping affair, which resulted in dozens of athletes being banned from the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
While calling for more sanctioning powers for WADA and closer cooperation with governments, Reedie, who is up for re-election on Nov. 20, had to defend his organization’s actions with half a dozen NOCs criticizing him at the assembly.
He also had to defend the timing of the release of part of the so-called McLaren report into doping in Russia shortly before the Rio Games in August. The report uncovered systematic state-sponsored doping in Russia.
The investigation, triggered by media reports of state-backed doping in Russia, led to a partial ban on Russians at the Rio Games and the suspension of the country’s doping laboratory, its anti-doping agency and athletics federation.
Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, who heads the ANOC and is an influential International Olympic Committee (IOC) member, called for a ‘neutral’ president to deal with the fallout of the doping crisis.
The IOC confirmed it had held talks with Reedie, who is standing for another three-year term, about appointing a neutral president in future and dropping the current system of rotating the choice of president between governments and sports bodies.
“During the discussions at the IOC Executive Board earlier this month, Sir Craig Reedie was advised of the intention of the IOC Executive Board to have in the future a neutral WADA President for the sake of the credibility and good governance of WADA,” an IOC spokesperson said on Wednesday.
“At the meeting, Sir Craig accepted this approach and said he would not stand in the way of such a solution. Following this he received the support of the IOC Executive Board for his reappointment as WADA President,” the spokesman said.
Sheikh Ahmad was concerned about the release of the second part of the McLaren report, due out in early December, and noted WADA’s suspension of the Doha doping lab was announced the day before the general assembly in the Qatari capital on Tuesday.
“There were questions of timing with the (McLaren) report and now we see it again with Doha, not because of cheating but because of procedures. The decision was only made on November 7, but came here on the day of the general assembly.
“I am now worried that the (second part of the) McLaren Report will come out in the first week of December during the IOC Executive Board, or the day after to undermine decisions there,” Sheikh Ahmad said.
He suggested moving WADA from Montreal to Geneva, where the World Health Organization has offices.
Reedie apologized, saying the McLaren report had to come out before the Rio Games and that the Doha lab suspension announcement was not intentional.
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; editing by Amlan Chakraborty and Ken Ferris)