Tom Degun: McQuaid has to "open the doors and let the sunlight in" warns frustrated WADA President

Friday, 15 February 2013
Tom Degun ITG2When it comes to straight-talkers Australia's John Fahey, the President of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), is right up there with the best.

This is somewhat surprising, not just because the 68-year-old currently holds one of the most important and influential positions in world sport, but because he is most notable as a politician, having previously served as the Premier of New South Wales and Federal Minister for Finance in Australia.

Personally, I have always found Fahey particularly easy to get along with and someone with a good sense of humour.

As we sat down on the side-lines of the 2013 WADA Media Symposium this week, which took place in the plush surroundings at the Sofitel at London Heathrow Airport, I found myself engrossed with Fahey in a conversation about Manchester United.

He explained that he supported them ever since he read about the 1958 Munich air disaster when the legendary "Busby Babes" team crashed, with 23 fatalities.

"We didn't have a television back then but I read about it in the newspaper my dad bought," Fahey told me. "It was big news even in Australia back then and I loved the way Manchester United rose from the ashes to become great again. I've loved them ever since."

Genuinely fascinating though that conversation was, I had to redirect Fahey to the pressing issue of cycling's major drug problems that have caused continuous international headlines in the wake of the Lance Armstrong scandal.
 
John Fahey 3WADA President John Fahey has become frustrated in his attempts to help the UCI deal with the drugs scandal that has rocked the sport after Lance Armstrong admitted doping

At the centre of the issue seems to be the deteriorating relationship between WADA and the International Cycling Union (UCI), with the latter continually fail to properly address the doping issue, it is claimed.

They scrapped their own Independent Commission and, although Fahey would be happy for WADA to conduct the investigation, he is not confident the UCI will expose themselves to such scrutiny. In the middle of all this, seems to be a row between Fahey and UCI President Pat McQuaid, who the WADA President appears to be rather unimpressed with.

"Look, the last I spoke to Pat McQuaid was three Saturdays ago," Fahey said. "He told me, in the media mind, that he was going to call me. This was basically so he was able to say to his own inquiry that he made contact with the President of WADA (Fahey rolls his eyes at this point).

"We had a full and frank discussion.

"I conveyed the matters that I believed were the way forward in writing straight after that conversation and I got my response, again through the media, a few days later. We haven't spoken since then. But at the end of our conversation, I told him he had a great sport and regardless of my view on the way cycling has behaved and ignored WADA in the current crisis, I'm still happy to see if we could be of some assistance.

"I'd like his sport to succeed, not crash, but he's got to be prepared to allow scrutiny and open the doors to let the sunlight in. So if he wants to pick up the phone tomorrow, he'll get courtesy from me. I believe in what can happen tomorrow, not in what someone did wrong yesterday."
 
Pat McQuaid 3Pat McQuaid has soured relations between the UCI and WADA, it is claimed

Throughout the UCI's media statements, the WADA President has only hit back once in a high-profile press release where he called McQuaid "deceitful" in the way he had suggested WADA were involved in the process of establishing then disbanding the Independent Commission.

Fahey explains he had to act then, but has otherwise stood by and allowed the UCI to continue saying what they like.

"I've only made one statement in the media and there was no choice there because he made a very deceitful response to the media and responded to my letter in a press release," he said.

"I just made it clear exactly what I had actually said. He made other provocative statements again in the media last week but as far as I am concerned, those statements are not important enough to me to even bother commenting on in the media again.

"I'm more concerned with effective anti-doping programmes around the world than the personalities at the UCI. They have their own problems that only cycling can solve."

Fahey's words to me seemed to mark the entire theme of the 2013 WADA Media Symposium in that it has been a tough year for the world of anti-doping. The Armstrong fallout has truly rocked the world of sport and the WADA President believes that the war on drug cheats will never be won for good.
 
Lance Armstong 2 Lance Armstrong stunned sport by revealing on television that he doped throughout his career

"We need to be ever alert to the increasingly sophisticated science available to athletes today and the growing influence of the underworld," he said, becoming more general in his words.

"Whenever there are significant sums of money to be won, and glory to be gained, there always will be those willing to come up with new and more cunning ways to cheat. When you consider the hundreds of billions of dollars generated globally by sport every year, and the importance sport plays in our lives, it continues to surprise me why there is a reluctance to properly invest in protecting it."

So 2013 is already shaping up to be another tough year for WADA.

But with Fahey set to step down at the end of this year, uncovering the real truth behind the Armstrong and cycling doping scandal would prove perhaps his greatest and most significant achievement since taking over as President in 2008.

Certainly it would represent a huge battle won in the war on drugs and a real platform for WADA to build off.

That, though, appears a long way off at present.

And as Fahey says, the ball is very much in the UCI court right now.

Tom Degun is a reporter for insidethegames. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here
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