WADA President Witold Bańka said the extended Presidential term limit would "harmonise the rules" with the Foundation Board and Executive Committee ©Getty Images

World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) President Witold Bańka has defended the extension of the term limits for the top role here, claiming it represents a "small change" among wider reforms.

Bańka attended the first four days of the Kraków-Małopolska 2023 European Games in his native Poland, using his visit to promote clean sport at the Athletes' Village with WADA's athlete engagement team.

Earlier this week, it was confirmed WADA had extended the Presidential term limit from six to nine years, meaning former Polish Minister of Sports Bańka could serve an additional three years until 2029 if re-elected.

Afterwards, the initial Presidential term would be for six years rather than three, with a possibility for a further three-year extension.

These changes are also set to apply to the vice-president.

Critics fear this could be too long and reduce accountability, but Bańka insisted the changes would bring the Presidential and vice-presidential positions in line with terms for members of the Foundation Board and Executive Committee.

"It was an initiative of the sports movement and the Governments to harmonise the term of office because our Foundation Board and Executive Committee members are able to be three terms of three years, so generally nine years, so this initiative was to harmonise the rules," he explained to insidethegames.

"It was a part of the big reforms.

"We've changed the Statutes - 33 members of the Foundation Board voted in favour of this change and one was against, so it was a strong majority to support it and to change it.

"But of course it was a small change.

"Generally we finished the second phase of our governance reforms."

WADA President Witold Bańka, back centre, attended the first four days of the European Games in his native Poland ©WADA
WADA President Witold Bańka, back centre, attended the first four days of the European Games in his native Poland ©WADA

Recent governance reforms at WADA include creating an enlarged Athlete Council to replace the former Athletes' Committee and a firmer separation of powers has also been introduced between the Foundation Board and Executive Committee.

The WADA President insisted the reforms had strengthened the Agency's independence.

"We started these reforms a few years ago so I am very happy that we have finally finished it," Bańka said.

"I think it is obvious for all of us that WADA is now more independent, a well-structured Agency.

"We have more independent members.

"We have members from the National Anti-Doping Agencies, independent members in our Foundation Board and Executive Committee, an independent Ethics Board, different Commissions and I think when you look at the changes of our structure we can be proud of these reforms."

WADA was founded in 1999, with Canada's now honorary IOC member Richard Pound its founding President.

The Presidency has since alternated between sports and public authorities.

Earlier this week, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) set a date of September 26 to 29 in Lausanne to hear the appeals of WADA, the Russian Anti-Doping Agency and International Skating Union as they seek further sanctions than those imposed by a RUSADA Disciplinary Committee against the figure skater Kamila Valieva.

Witold Bańka insisted WADA is
Witold Bańka insisted WADA is "more independent, a well-structured Agency" following recent governance reforms ©WADA

WADA wants a four-year ban for Valieva, who was 15 at the time insidethegames exclusively revealed she was at the centre of a doping scandal at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, having already helped the Russian Olympic Committee to a team gold medal.

Bańka commented that WADA would now await the CAS hearing.

"We have a date, and we are waiting for the hearing," he said.

"You know very well our position towards this situation and how WADA reacted on this case, but now at least we have a hearing so we are waiting."

Skaters from second-placed United States, third-placed Japan and fourth-placed Canada in the team event at Beijing 2022 have expressed frustration at the delays in resolving the case, with medals still not officially awarded.