Doha, Qatar, Nov 16 – WADA head Craig Reedie apologised Wednesday to Olympics officials furious at the timing of an announcement that Qatar’s main drug testing analysis laboratory was suspended.
The World Anti-Doping Agency revealed on Monday that the laboratory’s work would be suspended for four months — just as more than 1,000 officials descended on Doha for the annual meeting of the Association of National Olympic Committees.
Officials said the timing of the announcement threatened to overshadow the two-day summit, which saw Budapest, Los Angeles and Paris present their bids for the 2024 Olympics on Tuesday.
“I apologise fully that this happened. It was not, I promise you, intentional,” said Reedie.
“I decided that the process should be finished on Wednesday last week (9th), I hoped it would be finished before the general assembly in Doha.”
He added: “There is never a good time to announce the suspension or even more strict sanctions on a laboratory.”
Reedie was taken to task by Sudanese and Spanish delegates as well as Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah, president of the Olympic Council of Asia, head of ANOC and a member of the International Olympic Committee, after delivering a speech to delegates.
Sabah was particularly concerned that the announcement was meant to maximise embarrassment for ANOC members and Qatar.
“I am really worried about the timing of such reports,” said Sabah.
“We didn’t see or hear anything until yesterday.”
And he added that it was not the first time Olympic officials had been embarrassed by WADA, pointing to the timing of previous reports by the world doping body.
He said a report by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren on doping in Russia and the suspension of the Rio de Janeiro laboratory “came a few days before the city was set to host the Olympics and now this report about the Doha laboratory has come hours ahead of the ANOC General Assembly.
– Sport’s image ‘hit hard’ –
“Following the trend, I would say that another report will surface just ahead of the WADA meeting later this month.”
WADA is to hold an executive committee meeting in Glasgow this weekend.
The president of Spain’s National Olympic Committee, Alejandro Blanco Bravo, told delegates: “Why do such news reports come out around the time when an important meeting is on us, like here in Doha?
“We should not let an image be created that is damaging to the International Olympic Movement.”
Sudan’s Olympic committee boss, Tong Chor Malek Deran, said damage had been inflicted on the hosts by the timing of the announcement.
“A country like Qatar is really working hard in promoting sport,” he said.
“Such decisions really hit hard on the image of the sport.”
Reedie said WADA had met Doha lab officials since the announcement and that the problem could be resolved before the four month deadline.
Despite the criticism of Reedie, it was announced this week that the Scot had been backed by the IOC for a new three-year term at WADA.