6th November 2018

WADA denies being behind age requirement for Presidential candidates

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has denied that it is behind a requirement for Presidential candidates to be above age of 45, which would exclude its Vice President, Linda Helleland, 41, from standing to replace current President Sir Craig Reedie. Reedie’s mandate is due to expire at the end of next year, and Helleland has previously expressed interest in standing to replace him. Earlier this month, she clashed with Reedie over her attendance at a Whitehouse meeting, after which proposals for reform of WADA were issued. 

Whilst WADA denied being behind the age limit requirement, it confirmed that such a proposal had been suggested to the public authorities on WADA’s Foundation Board and Executive Committee. Nominations for WADA President alternate between a representative of the sporting movement and a public authority representative. As Reedie was an IOC Member, WADA’s next President is slated to be recommended by the public authorities.

WADA’s Foundation Board (38 members) and Executive Committee (12 members) are made up of equal representation from the sporting movement and public authorities, and is currently chaired by the African Union under Erastus Uutoni, Minister of Youth, National Service, Sports & Culture, Namibia. It is understood that on 30 October, the African Union asked WADA to circulate a document containing the age limit to all public authority representatives. It is understood that it is entitled ‘Criteria and process for nominating a candidate for the post of the WADA President’.

It is understood that the public authorities will discuss the document on 13 November in Baku, Azerbaijan, ahead of WADA’s 15 November Foundation Board meeting. WADA said that Presidential candidacy rules are not on the agenda for the Foundation Board meeting. ‘The only thing that will be discussed are criteria for independence as part of the reform of governance discussion’, wrote a WADA spokesperson in an email.

However, as government authorities decide on the criteria for nominating their suggestion for the next WADA President, it is irrelevant as to whether the proposal will be discussed at the Foundation Board meeting. ‘These proposals have come from the public authorities representative of the Africa region, which is the current Chair of the government representatives’, continued WADA’s spokesperson. ‘They will discuss them among themselves. It is exclusively a matter for public authorities to determine which candidate(s) they want to nominate for the WADA Presidency when Sir Craig Reedie’s term ends next year.

‘Neither WADA’s leadership nor its management was involved or consulted in any way in the drafting of this document. It will not be discussed by the Executive Committee or the Foundation Board as it is a matter exclusively for the public authorities.’

Yesterday, Athletes for Clean Sport questioned whether such moves were designed to stop Helleland from standing to replace Reedie as WADA President. ‘To us, and I’m sure to many others, this appears to be a quick and quiet attempt by members of WADA to discuss and potentially push through surprising and controversial Presidential campaigning rule changes at the upcoming Foundation Board meeting’, read a statement. ‘Given the recent direction of WADA and the lack of transparency that we have witnessed, is it a merely a coincidence that just weeks before the athlete-minded candidate Linda Helleland would begin her campaign to be the next President, WADA could allow rules to be pushed through that would render Linda’s campaign ineligible? Call us sceptical, but regrettably we believe it is no coincidence, and is clearly an attempt to prevent the popular reformist candidate [Helleland] – that the athlete community believes WADA so desperately needs – from running.’

What is not clear is why government authorities would want to place an age limit on candidates for the WADA Presidency. At present, the only candidates that have expressed interest are Helleland and Polish Minister of Sport Witold Bańka, and both are younger than 45.

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