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Field open in race for World anti-doping headquarters

The World Anti-Doping Agency already has its temporary base in Lausanne

(Keystone Archive)

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) says Lausanne and four other cities competing to be its permanent seat are all in with an equal chance. Switzerland sweetened Lausanne's bid on Monday by offering WADA tax-exempt status.

Officially, WADA is giving nothing away on the question of which city - Lausanne, Montreal, Stockholm, Vienna or Bonn - is to be the permanent home of the agency as of next year. The official decision will be taken on July 31 or August 1.

"There are no favourites, they are all at the same line," says Harry Syväsalmi, WADA's secretary general. He said WADA was committed to following the evaluation criteria it had set out, and that it would be wrong to say any more until the five-member evaluation committee had visited the sites.

"We now have to find answers to questions that were not clarified in the bidding documents. We have to be professional and transparent," Syväsalmi told swissinfo.

Lausanne, which has been the temporary home of WADA since its birth in November 1999, is regarded as one of the favourites, given the presence in the city of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and no fewer than 17 international sporting federations as well as its excellent scientific facilities.

However, a number of countries, including the United States and those in the European Union are opposed to Lausanne because they feel it will not be able to act independently of the IOC.

WADA is made up equally of representatives of the Olympic movement - whether from the IOC or national committees - and of governments.

"Even though we've been in Lausanne, the actions of WADA have made it quite clear that we're entirely independent of any organisations, whether the IOC, individual federations or governments," says Dick Pound, WADA's chairman.

"We've demonstrated beyond question that we're independent. Whether we're in Lausanne or anywhere else won't affect that independence," he told swissinfo.

Nevertheless, Lausanne's bid received a timely boost on Monday, when the Swiss government agreed to grant WADA tax exemption. Pound welcomed the move, but would not say whether it would have any bearing on the final outcome.

"For Switzerland to do that is a good sign for other governments and I hope others will follow that example," he said.

"The fact that a serious government is prepared to accord diplomatic or quasi-diplomatic privileges to a hybrid organisation such as WADA is very good for us because in order to do our job around the world we're going to need something like that," he told swissinfo.

The International Olympic Committee dropped its request for tax exemption following the scandal in 1999 over corruption and bribery in the awarding of the 2002 Winter Games to Salt Lake City.

Pound confirmed that the number of candidates in the final shortlist for WADA's permanent site had been reduced from six to five after the French city of Lille failed to deliver its application documents to WADA by the March 1 deadline.

Pound also announced that WADA wanted to conduct a minimum of 8,000 out-of-competition drug tests over the next two years, at its own expense. He said the target for this year was 3,500 and for 2002, it would be 4,500. He added that these tests would be extended to non-Olympic sports, like powerlifting and polo.

by Roy Probert


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