By Greg Johnson
Former Australian Finance Minister John Fahey was criticised by Council of Europe members on Tuesday as the 62 year-old tried to consolidate his candidature for the replacement for World Anti-Doping Agency head Richard Pound. Despite being the only remaining candidate in the election for WADA's top job, the New Zealand-born Fahey is facing stiff resistance from European members at the World Anti-Doping Conference in Madrid, as they are reportedly considering to attempt to block Fahey's election on Saturday in the fallout from the withdrawal of French candidate Jean-Francois Lamour.
"Lamour withdrew without consulting anyone," Pound told news agencies. "He didn't answer his phone calls, he just went to a press conference and made very un-credible allegations against an organisation he was ready to lead. It was bad for France, it was bad for Europe."
Lamour announced his resignation from the candidacy as WADA vice president in mid-October and hit out at the body for allowing Fahey's late entry. While even Pound has admitted that Fahey isn't yet a sure bet as his replacement, noting that a last minute opponent could still arise, Fahey has the support of IOC president Jacques Rogge – arguably the world sport's most influential figure.
"John Fahey deserves to have the time to show his credentials," Rogge said. "He's an intelligent man, he's new to the sports movement and fight against doping. He deserves the chance to show his capacities and will be judged on how he performs. I will give him the benefit of having time to come into his role."
Fahey, who would officially take over the Montreal-based organisation on January 1 if elected, gave a 15-minute speech to 45 EoC members on Tuesday, before being questioned by the delegation for an hour.
"If the election carries, I hope to get more government involvement in the fight against doping, more cooperation," Fahey told The Associated Press. "That isn't to suggest it isn't there now, but the more that's there, the better the outcome."
Fahey admitted that there has been concerns by the European sport ministers following Lamour's voluntary withdrawal, with the Frenchman accusing the former New South Wales Premier's support being based on the desire for a softer approach to drug use in sport. Lamour's suggestion was quashed by Australian Minister for Sport senator George Brandis, while Fahey described the comments as "nonsensical ramblings".
"I can't deny in discussions with a number of European (sports) ministers that there is some level of concern about the fact that they anticipated or expected the president to be a European," Fahey said. "But it's not my fault that a candidate withdrew."
Last month, European Union sports ministers hit out at Lamour's withdrawal from the presidential race. Portuguese Cabinet Minister Pedro Silva Pereira said the 27 EU sports ministers who met is Lisbon were "very unhappy and deplore the decision" made by the Frenchman.
"The restrictions on deadlines and this late withdrawal mean that at present the EU has no plans to put forward another candidate, (but) that is not of course to say that we would not support somebody else amongst the interested parties who may come forward," Pereira told Reuters. "We have taken note of the candidate, but many states have requested more information on the candidate from Australia and we will make our decision collectively."
Should Fahey be given the nod in Saturday's vote, where he will require a majority of the 36 board members, the lawyer will continue to work from his Sydney base, where he operates three days a week as an investment bank senior advisor. "I'm sure (WADA) will require my attention almost daily - thank God for telecommunications," said Fahey, who had a lung removed after being diagnosed with lung cancer in 2001. "But there is a team of professionals in Montreal who are there all the time."
"Life is about opportunities and challenges, and there is clearly a challenge here," Fahey said. "If we can't remove cheating in sport, then sport dies. That would be a tragedy."
In addition to his current position as a senior advisor to J.P. Morgan Australia, Fahey is board member and chairman of the Bradman Cricket Foundation, a position he's held since 2001. On top of this, Fahey and wife Colleen have become full time parents to 8 year-old granddaughter Amber and 6 year-old grandson Campbell after their 27 year-old daughter Tiffany was killed in a car accident on Boxing Day last year.