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Bańka formally elected Wada president

Image: MSIT

Witold Bańka, Poland’s Minister for Sport and Tourism, has today (Thursday) been formally elected as the next president of the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) stating he will “always build bridges” with sport stakeholders.

Bańka’s appointment was rubber-stamped as Wada’s World Conference on Doping in Sport drew to a close in the Polish city of Katowice. The 35-year-old former track and field athlete will succeed Craig Reedie on January 1.

The conference also saw the election of Wada’s first Chinese vice president, former Winter Olympic champion Yang Yang. Xinhua reports that Yang will also start her term at the start of next year, and succeeds Norwegian politician Linda Helleland.

Bańka was lined up as the new president as he defeated the Dominican Republic’s Vice-Minister of Sport and Tourism, Marcos Diaz, in a vote back in May. Outspoken Wada vice-president Linda Helleland was once viewed as a leading contender for the position but Bańka was instead chosen by the Council of Europe as its candidate.

Reedie, who has been head of Wada since 2014, decided not to stand for re-election. The presidency traditionally rotates between a choice from sports bodies and one from public authorities. Earlier this week, Bańka called on sport’s commercial sponsors to contribute financially towards the fight against doping.

Speaking today, he said: “We have the same objective and goals in our hearts, to clean up sport and create a fair environment. I promise you I will always try to build bridges with all stakeholders. I am sure that together we will make anti-doping systems stronger.”

Bańka’s appointment comes with Wada still locked in a four-year saga relating to Russia’s doping scandal. Wada last month said it had received further responses from Russian authorities to its queries relating to “inconsistencies” found in data retrieved from a Moscow laboratory. The Agency is preparing to rule on the status of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (Rusada), with the decision potentially impacting on whether Russia will be able to compete at the 2020 summer Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Vice president-to-be Yang was nominated for her upcoming role in May by the IOC executive board. Speaking about her appointment, she said: “I feel very proud not just for myself, but also for China. I am entrusted with this new responsibility thanks to the IOC and Wada’s confidence in my experience and ability. At the same time, I think it also shows the international society’s recognition in China’s efforts against doping.”

Yang’s appointment was welcomed by Li Yingchuan, vice director of China’s State General Administration of Sport and also a member of WADA Foundation Board. Li said the Chinese administration would give her full support, and underlined how seriously the nation was taking the anti-doping fight: “We are in the process drafting a judicial interpretation on the application of criminal law in handling cases related to doping. This will make China [one of] just a few places where doping cases could be criminalised.”

Yang was China’s first Winter Olympic champion, winning two gold and one silver medal at Salt Lake City in 2002 in the short track speedskating. She was an IOC member from 2010 until 2018, when she was appointed to the IOC Marketing Commission.

In further developments on the closing day of the World Conference on Doping in Sport, Wada ended a two-year consultation process by approving a revision of its World Anti-Doping Code. This will take effect from January 2021, with the headline change being a softening in sanctions for the use of illicit drugs deemed to be taken for recreational, rather than performance-enhancing purposes, such as marijuana and cocaine.