The international fight against drugs in sport will no longer be led from Lausanne, after the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) decided to locate its permanent home in Montreal. The decision is a major blow to the Swiss city.
The choice of Montreal was made by WADA's 33-member Foundation Board, the agency's highest decision-making body, during a meeting in the Estonian capital, Tallinn. The Canadian city received 17 votes in the fourth round of voting, compared with Lausanne's 15.
"We are slightly surprised," said Bernard Métraux, Lausanne's director of sports and a member of the Swiss lobbying team in the Estonian capital.
"There is a whole host of reasons that led to this decision," another member of the Lausanne bidding team, Jean-Pierre Hocké, told swissinfo.
He said the Canadian and Quebec governments' decision to provide $10 million worth of funding for the agency had played a role, as had the fact that the representatives of the Olympic movement had not voted as a bloc as expected.
EU backs Montreal
Métraux added that "Switzerland's weakness in Europe" had also not helped Lausanne's cause, with a number of European Union members opting for Montreal.
"It was a democratic vote and we have to accept it," Hocké said.
Half of WADA's board are from the Olympic movement and half from governments.
The Tallinn vote is the latest blow to Swiss efforts to put itself on the world sporting map. In 1999, its bid to host the 2006 Winter Olympics was turned down, and last month a former president and sports minister, Adolf Ogi, failed to secure membership of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Lausanne and Montreal were considered the favourites in the battle to become the permanent seat of the new international anti-doping body. Earlier this month, the two cities along with Vienna were declared the frontrunners by WADA's evaluation committee.
But the Austrian city's bid was dealt a fatal blow when the European Union failed to throw its weight behind any one of its three candidates. The other two, Stockholm and Bonn, refused to withdraw from the race.
One of the main factors that may have tipped the scales in Montreal's favour was the fact that so many international sporting organisations are based in Europe.
Lausanne, WADA's temporary home since it was formed in 1999 following a spate of doping scandals, believed it had a number of advantages over its competitors.
The city touted the fact that no expensive relocation would be required; that WADA would have been in close proximity to the IOC and other international sporting federations; and the Swiss government had agreed to grant WADA quasi-diplomatic status, meaning the agency and its employees would not be required to pay tax.
IOC was Achilles' Heel
But Lausanne's location as home of the IOC proved to be its Achilles' Heel in the WADA bid. Representatives from the EU and North America believed the fight against doping could not truly be independent and transparent if the agency was located on the Olympic Movement's doorstep.
There has been speculation that Montreal was chosen as "compensation" for Canada's failed bid to host 2008 Olympics in Toronto, as well as the failure of WADA's Canadian chairman, Richard Pound, to succeed Juan Antonio Samaranch as IOC president. The Belgian, Jacques Rogge, was elected instead.
"It could have been a factor. This would have been a third setback [for Canada], and it could have played a role [in influencing the decision]," Hocké said.
Despite backing Lausanne's bid, the IOC was putting a brave face on the outcome: "We are talking about international organisations, and a worldwide fight against doping.
"The IOC is sure the members of WADA's board have taken their decision knowing all aspects of the bidding cities," said IOC Director General François Carrard.
"This clears up an issue that has been on the table for a while, and now WADA can concentrate on the fight against doping, and we will cooperate fully," he told swissinfo.
The Tallinn meeting also addressed other issues, such as trying to put in place a uniform system of rules and sanctions for doping before the Athens Olympics in 2004, introducing a "doping passport" to help keep track of athletes, and improved training for the drugs testers.
by Roy Probert