Linda Helleland has received the backing of FairSport in her bid to become the next President of the World Anti-Doping Agency ©Linda Helleland/Twitter

World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) vice-president Linda Helleland, who hopes to be elected as President of the body this year, has received the formal backing of FairSportthe independent foundation with the self-professed aim of eradicating doping.

The 41-year-old Norwegian has built up a reputation as an outspoken anti-establishment figure, regularly criticising the current WADA leadership for its stance on the Russian doping scandal and other matters.

When she initially announced her candidacy in May of last year, Helleland declared that there was "a need for change" in the anti-doping world and said the movement was losing the trust of athletes.

Current President Sir Craig Reedie is ineligible to stand at November's election in Katowice as he will reach his limit of two three year terms, with the WADA Presidency alternating between Government and Sport Movement representatives. 

In an end of year address, FairSport's founder Jim Swartz has offered the body's official endorsement to Helleland, saying 2019 is a year "for real optimism for change".

"In response to the World Anti-Doping Agency's and the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) gross mishandling of the Russian doping crisis and the increased suppression of athletes' rights, athletes have mobilised in the thousands in calling for WADA to reform," he said.

"The unprecedented athlete outcry against the WADA leadership we witnessed was not 'criticism' as WADA like to perceive it; rather it comprised proactive and constructive solutions for how WADA needs to change with shifting public and athlete opinion - and to move with the times.

"There is growing clamour for WADA to take a tougher, more uncompromising stance against doping in sport and for the regulator to become less isolated from mainstream opinion.

"Thankfully, change is on the horizon with the fourth WADA President due to be announced in November.

"With this impending election, FairSport, a young, independent foundation that is standing for what is right for athletes, is pleased to announce its endorsement of the one and only candidate that is in-tune with athlete and public opinion on anti-doping: Linda Helleland."

Following their initial ban in 2015 when accusations of state-sponsored doping first emerged, Helleland, Norway's Sport Minister, was one of only two WADA Executive Committee members to vote against the Russian Anti-Doping Agency's reinstatement in September.

She has now called on WADA's Compliance Review Committee (CRC) to meet "immediately" after Russia missed its December 31 deadline to hand over data from its Moscow Laboratory, which WADA say could help catch more cheats and exonerate others.

This was a key criteria of their reinstatement. 

Linda Helleland has been a regular critic of current WADA President Sir Craig Reedie, who has overseen the controversial reinstatement of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency ©Getty Images
Linda Helleland has been a regular critic of current WADA President Sir Craig Reedie, who has overseen the controversial reinstatement of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency ©Getty Images

WADA's team in Moscow were turned away, however, when Russian authorities declared the equipment they planned to use to extract the data was not certified under the country's law.

As a result, Helleland has gone against WADA's official stance and said the body should act immediately and not wait for the CRC to convene on January 14 and 15, as is the current plan.

While she is undoubtedly the athletes' choice for the next WADA President, Helleland is expected to face tough opposition for the role with sports movement opponents such as the IOC unwilling to see her elected.

Fellow candidate Witold Banka - who is considered the establishment's choice - has previously called on the Norwegian to step down from her role as WADA vice-president to ensure a fairer campaign, while a new age limit of 45 was briefly proposed for the Presidency, which if enforced would have meant Helleland could not stand.

That proposal, which would have also ruled out Poland's Sports Minister Banka, was eventually dismissed, however.

Swartz also praised the introduction of the Rodchenchov Act in the United States Senate, which if passed will make doping a criminal offence in events featuring US athletes or where there are American interests. 

It is named after former Moscow Laboratory head Grigory Rodchenkov, who turned whistleblower and provided much of the evidence against Russia.

"As an organisation that has been proud to protect and support whistleblowers - starting with Dr. Rodchenkov - we welcome the passage of this bill, and believe that WADA and the IOC should, too," Swartz said.

"With long overdue change on the horizon, 2019 is a time for athletes to be optimistic and to continue their drive for real change

"Athletes should know that FairSport will stand at their side, as they look for their voice to be counted and for the World Anti-Doping Agency to be held to account.

"Let this be the year when change does come - for the integrity and future survival of world sport."

FairSport was established in the wake of the Russian doping scandal with the aim to promote clean sport across the globe.

As well as Swartz its founding members include former Norwegian Olympic speed skating champion Johann Koss and former IOC Athletes' Commission chair Claudia Bokel.