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” following the Russian doping affair, which saw dozens of athletes banned from the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
While calling for more sanctioning powers for WADA and closer cooperation with governments, Reedie, up for re-election on Nov. 20, had to defend his organisation’s actions with half a dozen NOCs criticising him vocally.
He also had to defend the timing of releasing part of the so-called McLaren report into doping in Russia shortly before the Rio Games in August.
The investigation, triggered by media reports of state-backed doping in Russia, led to a partial ban of Russians at the Rio Games and the suspension of the country’s doping lab, its anti-doping agency and athletics federation.
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WADA in July called for a complete ban of Russians at the Rio Games a month later but the International Olympic Committee (IOC) cleared more than 250 Russian athletes, deemed as clean, to compete.
Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, who heads the ANOC and is an influential IOC member, called for a “neutral” president to deal with the fallout of the doping crisis.
“We need a neutral chair and reform committee to go through all of the proposals and to work in the right direction in the future,” he said.
“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.”
He was referring to WADA’s suspension of the Doha doping lab, announced a day before the general assembly in the Qatari capital on Tuesday.
The second part of the McLaren report will be published in early December.
“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 after to undermine decisions there,” Sheikh Ahmed Al-Sabah said.
He suggested moving WADA from Montreal to Geneva, where the World Health Organisation has offices.
Reedie apologised, saying the McLaren report had to come out before the Rio Games but the Doha lab suspension announcement was not intentional.
“There is never a good time to announce the suspension of any laboratory,” Reedie said. “There is a procedure which WADA has to follow.”
“I had hoped it would finish before the general assembly. That did not happen. I apologise fully that this happened. It was not intentional.”