Former French Olympic hurdles champion Guy Drut has been nominated by European governments as a last-minute candidate to take over from Dick Pound as president of the World Anti-Doping Agency.
|Europe's man: Guy Drut [EPA]|
The Europeans turned to Drut, a former French sports minister, after coming out against the sole candidacy of former Australian finance minister John Fahey.
"It's the governments' decision," said Drut, who won the 110-meter hurdles at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
"The decision doesn't belong to me. It's up to them ... Maybe what is needed is a candidate of compromise."
The Europeans had earlier asked for Saturday's election to be postponed for six months to give them time to find another candidate for the highest-profile post in the global fight against performance-enhancing drugs.
It was unclear whether Fahey would withdraw or stay in the race for the election by the WADA foundation board.
"I don't know Mr. Fahey," Drut said.
"It's nothing personal. The candidature is presented by the governments. I'm here simply to calm the situation and to find a solution to it."
Pound, who had led WADA since its creation in 1999, steps down at the end of the year.
Drut said, if elected, he would serve on an interim basis until the next WADA meeting in May.
He said he would decide later whether to be a candidate for the job on a full-time basis.
"A large part of the European contingent backs my eventual candidature and are proposing that until May I come in to reset things slowly, to bring back a feeling of serenity, that is absolutely important for WADA, and from there we'll see," he said.
The messy election handover has left WADA in disarray and overshadowed the Third World Conference of Doping in Sport, which is considering ratification of a new code of global rules and sanctions against performance-enhancing drugs.
Drut's nomination is not without controversy.
He was provisionally suspended as a member of the International Olympic Committee in December 2005 after being convicted in a party-financing trial
He was pardoned by then French President Jacques Chirac and reinstated by the IOC in June 2006.
| Drut won the silver medal in the 1972 Olympics|
in the 110 metres hurdles [GALLO/GETTY]
The IOC has barred from him from chairing any IOC commission for five years.
After a closed-door meeting, the Council of Europe's sports ministers announced it would not support Fahey and would request a delay.
If the postponement is rejected, the Europeans said, they would abstain in the vote by the WADA foundation board.
The European group and French delegates then held a series of meetings and decided to put Drut up for election.
"I arrived this morning and all of a sudden I found myself in the situation of candidate," Drut said.
WADA rules specify that it's the turn of a government representative to take over the presidency for the next term, beginning January 1.
The longtime favorite for the post was former French sports minister Jean-Francois Lamour, who was nominated by the Europeans.
But Fahey, who led Sydney's successful bid for the 2000 Olympics, was put forward as a surprise late entry by several non-European countries.
An angry Lamour dropped out of the running last month, resigned as WADA vice president and claimed WADA had violated its own election procedures by letting Fahey into the race.
The WADA foundation board currently has 35 members, 18 from the sports movement and 17 from the government side.
The Europeans hold five of the government seats.
Pound rules out extending stay
Earlier, Pound said WADA would proceed with the election despite the European call for a postponement, but didn't rule out the possibility that the agency could fail to elect a new leader.
"We're expecting the governments to come up with a candidate for president which will be supported by everybody," Pound said.
"That's the deal."
As for the European opposition, he said, "It's a regional bloc which had a candidate who disappeared for reasons that nobody knows. All of a sudden they say the process doesn't work. We say, 'No, the process works just fine, thank you,' and we will continue."
Pound was dismissive of the request for a six-month delay.
"You can't read a schedule?" he said.
"I mean the agenda has been here for four years. The schedule was set in May. Election of candidates were called for by the end of September. There were two candidates. Yours folded the tent and melted into the night. That's your problem. It's not our problem."
Pound reiterated again that he would not stay on as president beyond the end of his term.
"No, I finish on December 31," he said.
Fahey, meanwhile, declined to speak Friday about the European initiative against him.
"I'll talk on Saturday," he said.
On Thursday, Fahey defended his credentials and said he was perfectly qualified to lead WADA.
"I'm in this to give my time and my skills for something I think is extremely important and something which we must succeed in," he said.
"Otherwise, I think sport will wither and probably die if we can't get integrity back into it by fair play. I'm willing to give all of that."