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Norwegian minister Helleland throws hat into WADA presidential ring

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Norwegian minister Helleland throws hat into WADA presidential ring
Linda Helleland. Photo: Terje Bendiksby / NTB scanpix
14:19 CEST+02:00
Norwegian government minister Linda Helleland wants to impose radical changes at the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) if she is elected president next year, she said in an interview with the BBC.

The 40-year-old -- currently Norway's Minister for Children and Equalities and previously culture minister -- says the battle to clean up sport is at a crossroads due to the scandal over Russia's alleged state-sponsored doping system.

Helleland, who has been WADA vice-president since 2016, says if she succeeds the Briton Craig Reedie, she wants a complete overhaul of WADA and for it to become more independent.

It has been a constant refrain for many years that WADA does not receive sufficient funding either from governments or the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to be as effective as it would like to be.

The presidency alternates between representatives of governments and the sports federations in the Olympic movement, which co-fund the organisation.

Reedie, who has been in his post since 2013 and was re-elected unopposed for a second and final three-year term in 2016, was put forward by the sports federations.

"I would like to be the next president of WADA," Helleland told the BBC.

"WADA needs more independence, more transparency and more democracy.

"But also it needs a more equal partnership and right now the perception is that the Olympic movement is the strongest partner. We need to strengthen the role of the governments, and I want to do that."

Helleland believes she can draw on her political experience to engender change.

"I think it is very important to contribute my experience as a minister with good governance in all our processes, so we have more diversity and gender equality," she said.

"The most important thing for me is that we have a good president committed to making WADA stronger and more independent."

The mother of two says she wants her football-loving sons to grow up in a world where they "believe sport is clean, so they have role models that are clean".

"That is my motivation. I want the public and athletes to know I have done everything I can do to make sport clean.

"There is a lot more to be done. We need to increase and enhance the fight against doping -- we need WADA to be the body that scrutinises sports.

"I want to put my effort and energy into what I can change."

Helleland has not been shy about calling for an independent review of the Russian doping scandal which exposed widespread use of prohibited substances over a number of years, but notably at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

The IOC gave Reedie and WADA a particularly hard time prior to the 2016 Rio Olympics when it rejected the recommendation that Russia be banned.

Instead the IOC left it to individual federations to decide on a case-by-case basis although they did bar Russian athletes from competing under their own flag at this year's Winter Games in Pyeongchang.

"There have been some confusing years in the anti-doping movement and I'm afraid a lack of trust and confidence from fans and athletes is now a big problem," said Helleland.

"That is why we need a review because we need to be fit for the future, we need to learn what to do if this happens again, and need to have a community that can respond quickly and can be trusted."

READ ALSO: 'We are not super-human': the secret to Norway's Olympic success

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