MADRID, Nov 17 (Reuters) The newly-elected chief of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), Australian John Fahey, pledged today to forge stronger ties with governments in a bid to enforce a new doping code and crack down more effectively on cheats.
Minutes after winning a vote which European governments tried to block and then abstained from, Fahey, elected for a three-year term starting on January 1, said all the pre-election wrangling was now a thing of the past.
Fahey won all but four votes -- all abstentions from Europe -- and said the time had come for governments to play a greater role in fighting doping in sport.
''I do not underestimate the task. I come from government and I hope to bring governments even more to the table than in the past,'' Fahey, a former Australian finance minister, told reporters as he sat next to outgoing president Dick Pound.
Only 71 of 191 countries have adopted WADA's anti-doping code through the ratification of a UNESCO convention.
''I believe there is a need to ensure that there is greater government commitment. Each of the Europeans in the room came to me (after the vote) and indicated they look forward to working with me,'' Fahey said.
His appointment ended weeks of turbulent negotiations which upset European stakeholders and dented WADA's reputation.
The European public authorities had opposed Fahey and then abstained after asking Pound to postpone the vote for six months until a consensus candidate could be found, a request Pound rejected minutes before the vote.
Fahey, backed initially at least by Oceania and the Americas, joined the race after WADA vice-president Jean-Francois Lamour was picked by European governments as their choice to succeed Pound, a Canadian lawyer who has held the post for eight years.
Shortly afterwards though, Lamour withdrew unexpectedly, accusing WADA of being ineffective and surprising his backers who scrambled to find another candidate.
A last-ditch effort to get former French sports minister Guy Drut to stand as a consensus candidate for interim president failed hours before the vote.
NEW CODE Pound said he understood the Europeans' frustration after Lamour pulled out, and their consequent abstention.
''I would have preferred a unanimous vote but I can understand why (they abstained),'' he said.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said it welcomed Fahey's appointment and looked forward to working with him.
Swedish IOC member Arne Ljungqvist was elected WADA vice-president.
Earlier, WADA had officially adopted its new code which Fahey calling valuable, new ''weaponry''.
The code foresees tougher bans for first-time offenders, doubling suspensions from two to four years, depending on the case.
Aggravating circumstances include being part of a large doping scheme, taking drugs for a long period of time, taking a cocktail of banned substances or using drugs that remain in the body for years.
However, it also offers reduced bans for athletes offering information on drugs in the form of plea bargains.
The maximum reduction in these cases though would not exceed three-quarters of the ban, WADA said.
More leniency is given to athletes who have taken a banned substance without intent to enhance their sporting performance, who could avoid sanctions altogether.
REUTERS RAR VC2259