Fahey to head World Anti-Doping Agency
MADRID, Spain ” Dick Pound is going out the way he wanted ” with an elected leader to replace him as the world’s top anti-doping enforcer and a tougher set of rules in place to fight drug cheats in sports.
After eight years as president of the World Anti-Doping Agency, Pound marked his farewell Saturday by ushering in former Australian politician John Fahey as his successor and securing ratification of a revised international code to fight performance-enhancing drugs.
“I leave behind an organization that works, and that has made a difference in the fight against doping in sport,” said Pound, who has headed the agency since its creation in 1999. “Maybe 100 years from now, people will look back and say, ‘Oh my God, wasn’t that primitive ” kind of like the drawing in caves that you find.’
“But a least it was a start. You had to make a start and I think the start has been good.”
Pound steps down officially at the end of the year, with Fahey taking over on Jan. 1.
For a while this week, it was uncertain whether WADA would even have a new leader.
Fahey, a former Australian finance minister, became the sole candidate after former French sports minister Jean-Francois Lamour, the longtime favorite, pulled out last month.
That turned the succession into a messy fight.
European ministers opposed to Fahey sought to postpone the election six months to find a new consensus candidate, and then offered former French Olympic hurdles champion Guy Drut as a last-minute challenger.
Pound rebuffed both moves, and the 35-member WADA foundation board went ahead and voted Saturday with Fahey as the only candidate. He won by a show of hands, with four European government delegates abstaining.
The 62-year-old Fahey will serve a three-year term. Arne Ljungqvist, a Swedish doping expert and chairman of the IOC medical commission, was elected WADA vice president.
“I do not underestimate the task,” Fahey said. “I don’t see any magic solution. It is a challenge. I see no more important role in sport than to win this fight.”
The European delegation stressed it would continue to support WADA and would work with Fahey. Europe contributes nearly 50 percent of the governments’ share of WADA’s funding.
Fahey, who led Sydney’s successful bid for the 2000 Olympics, said the Europeans told him they had nothing personal against him and were only challenging the election process.
“I’ve made it clear I will go to Europe early in the new year to see how we can cooperate and collaborate,” he said.
Fahey said one of his main priorities will be to push governments to ratify and implement the UNESCO anti-doping convention. So far, only 70 countries have adopted the treaty out of nearly 200 governments that promised to do so in 2003.
The unsettled election had left WADA in a state of confusion during the Third World Conference of Doping in Sport, which concluded earlier Saturday with ratification of a new code that allows for stiffer penalties in aggravated cases and reduced punishments in lesser ones.
“There was a level of tension here,” Fahey said. “I regret that. I felt my presence may have detracted from the conference.”
Fahey, a lawyer, does not plan to relocate to Montreal, where WADA has its headquarters. He’s currently a part-time senior adviser for an international investment bank in Sydney.
“We are an international organization,” Pound said. “Where John puts his head on the pillow is immaterial.”
The new doping code will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2009.
Among the most significant changes is the rule allowing for a four-year suspension ” rather than the standard two-year ban ” for a first doping offense in the event of “aggravating circumstances.”
That would include cases of athletes using or possessing multiple banned substances or being involved in a large doping scheme. It also deals with cases where the performance-enhancing effects remain in the body for more than two years, which could cover certain steroids.
The new code also includes incentives to alert authorities to doping violations or to admit doping.
“Nobody thinks the code we adopted today is the final word or the perfect way of dealing with it, but it’s a big improvement on what we had,” Pound said. “It sends a message to the public that we remain firm in our resolve.”
Pound’s leadership of WADA was marked by an outspoken, controversial style that earned him enemies along the way.
He joked that he won’t be the only one toasting with a glass of champagne at midnight on Dec. 31.
“I expect there may be other glasses of champagne consumed in other quarters of the world at the same time to celebrate my departure from this position,” Pound said.
White House deputy drug policy director Scott Burns laughingly told Pound that he would be among them. Pound has frequently criticized U.S. sports leagues, athletes and policies.
“We did not always see eye to eye, but he was the right leader at the right time at this organization,” Burns said. “He was a charismatic leader, a bright guy, someone who wasn’t afraid to have conflict and didn’t take it personally. That’s pretty rare. I consider him a great friend who was a great leader of WADA.”
Looking back over eight years, Pound said WADA had made great strides but there always will be athletes who try to cheat.
“There are no home runs in this game, only singles, doubles, and sometimes you hit a triple, even steal a base,” he said. “There’s always going to be somebody putting grease on the ball.”
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