A proposal made by the African Union of public authority representatives within the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has called for their candidate for President to be at least 45 years old in a move interpreted as an attempt to block Linda Helleland from standing.
The document written by the group and distributed by the WADA administration outlines several "criteria" any possible contender from the public authorities must meet.
The African Union's proposal includes a stipulation that their preferred candidate should possess a Master's degree and have "not less than 45 years".
It has been suggested the latter criteria has been inserted into the motion to prevent Helleland, the outspoken vice-president who voted against the reinstatement of Russia last month, from entering the race as the Norwegian is 41 years old.
The inclusion of the controversial condition has also prompted speculation of involvement from high-ranking officials at WADA, who have openly clashed with Helleland in the wake of the Russian doping scandal.
WADA has denied they had anything to do with the proposal, criticised today by three members of the Athletes for Clean Sport Group which has spoken out against the decision to lift the Russian suspension and a failure to increase athlete representation at WADA.
In a statement, WADA sought to explain the document but did not disagree with its content.
The proposal is expected to be discussed at a meeting of the public authorities next Tuesday (November 13) and could then be raised by the public authorities group at the Foundation Board meeting on Thursday (November 15).
"On 30 October 2018, on behalf of the African Union, which is the current chair of WADA’s public authorities’ representatives, WADA’s Executive Office was asked to distribute a draft document titled ‘Criteria and process for nominating a candidate for the post of the WADA President’ to all representatives of the public authorities," the statement read.
"In distributing the document on behalf of the public authorities, the Executive Office made it clear that neither WADA leadership nor WADA management had anything to do with its development and had not seen it prior to being asked to distribute it.
"So, to reiterate here, neither WADA’s leadership nor its management was involved or consulted in any way in the drafting of this document.
"Any suggestion to the contrary is simply untrue.
"Furthermore, the document will not be discussed by the Executive Committee or the Foundation Board as it is a matter exclusively for the public authorities.
"WADA’s requirements concerning the election of the President and vice-president by the Foundation Board are outlined in the WADA statutes and in the governance working group recommendations that will be presented to, and discussed by, the Foundation Board on 15 November."
Despite the denial and insistence of no involvement from WADA, Britain's Ali Jawad and Callum Skinner and Sweden's Sebastian Samuelsson have claimed the administration at the under-fire global watchdog should have shut the proposal down.
They said it was not a "coincidence" that the conditions, should they be implemented, would prohibit Helleland - who declared her intention to replace Sir Craig Reeide as WADA President earlier this year and who they described as a "reformist" - from being a candidate.
"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," the group said in a statement.
"Whether this move was initiated by WADA leadership or management, or whether it was initiated by members of WADA’s boards, that is irrelevant.
"It is WADA’s duty to lead, and leadership requires having a finger on the pulse of public and athlete opinion – and to act when something’s not right.
"This is not right."
The intervention from the athletes represents the latest in a bitter and fractured dispute between WADA's leadership and athletes who have become frustrated at their lack of input in key decisions.
Polish Sports Minister Witold Banka is also thought to be mulling over a bid for the Presidency but he would also be excluded in the unlikely event the public authorities' proposal comes to fruition as he is 34 years old.