Twenty-one government representatives from the World Anti-Doping Agency’s Executive Committee and Foundation board gathered in Montreal Tuesday to select a candidate to succeed Craig Reedie as the organization’s fourth president and landed on former world-class mid-distance runner Witold Banka.
The turmoil-stricken organization chose between Banka, currently the minister for sport and tourism in Poland, and marathon swimmer Marcos Diaz, of the Dominican Republic. A third presumed candidate, outspoken current WADA Vice President Linda Helleland, was not able to secure the backing of any of the five continental regions that can put forth candidates. Only two regions – Europe (Banka) and the Americas (Diaz) – nominated candidates, according to a Reuters report.
Helleland was vocally against WADA‘s decision to reinstate the Russian Anti-Doping Agency this year – she was one of two dissenting votes against reinstatement – and could still make a run at the job in the next two weeks with the backing of a WADA Foundation board member, but her success is highly unlikely. The official vote will take place at the next WADA meeting in November.
“I give my warmest gratitude to colleague Banka, and look forward to cooperat(ing) with him in the best interest of WADA,” Helleland said in a statement to the Associated Press. “Never before has a strong and independent WADA been more important. Never before has it been more important that WADA gets a strong and independent president.”
She added that it was “never about the position,” and that “it was about values like good governance, transparency and protection of the athletes.”
United States Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart, who had backed Helleland, said of Banka: “We appreciated the opportunity to have met with him recently and to discuss the hope for a strong and independent WADA going forward.”
Banka has largely avoided discussion of the Russian case and instead focused his efforts on securing funding for more anti-doping labs worldwide, according to the AP. At only 34 years old, he is about half the age of his three predecessors, who have all been in their 60s when taking office.