Polish Sports Minister Witold Bańka has been given a considerable boost in his bid to become the next President of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) after the Ad-Hoc European Committee for WADA (CAHAMA) recommended putting him forward as the continent's candidate.
Bańka was chosen ahead of WADA vice-president Linda Helleland and Flemish Sports Minister Philippe Muyters in a vote held during CAHAMA's meeting in Strasbourg.
He received 28 of the 49 votes, with Helleland earning 16 and Muyters claiming five.
Today's vote effectively means the 34-year-old former 400 metres sprinter will be Europe's contender to succeed Sir Craig Reedie as WADA President.
It does not definitively confirm Bańka as the European challenger as the full Council of Europe will vote on their candidate at its next meeting, set to be held on February 27.
The vote from CAHAMA nevertheless strengthens the Polish official's campaign and deals a substantial blow to both Helleland and Muyters.
"It is a great honour for me," Bańka posted on Twitter following the meeting.
It remains possible that both Helleland and Muyters could withdraw their respective candidacies if the February 27 vote also goes against them.
insidethegames understands Norwegian Helleland was not expecting to win today's vote given her stance against Russia.
Europa wybrała mnie na swojego oficjalnego kandydata na Prezydenta @wada_ama. To wielki zaszczyt!/Europe has chosen me as official candidate for the position of the President of @wada_ama. It is a great honour for me! https://t.co/DuQrdwbtA5— Witold Bańka (@WitoldBanka) January 30, 2019
Dominican Republic's Marcos Diaz is also in the running at this stage, while it is likely another candidate will emerge from Asia.
The public authorities group within WADA will essentially choose the next President when it holds a meeting in Montreal on May 14, prior to WADA's bi-annual gathering of the 38-member Foundation Board.
The group has asked all continents to nominate a single candidate, with the hope that a consensus on who they think should take over from Sir Craig when he steps down in November is reached at the meeting.
If this does not prove possible, a secret ballot, where each region will have one vote, will be held.
The contenders who fail to secure the nomination from the public authorities have been urged to cease campaigning.
The public authorities claim their chosen candidate should then shadow the current administration prior to their appointment at the World Conference on Doping in Sport in Katowice in Poland, scheduled to take place between November 5 and 7, where there is not likely to be an election.
The group has also called on contenders to campaign "with honesty, dignity and respect for his or her opponents" following a bitter public clash between Bańka and Helleland in November, where the Polish official claimed the Norwegian should stand down as WADA vice-president during her campaign for the top job.
In response, Helleland said the claims from the Polish official were "offensive" and "politically-motivated".
insidethegames has contacted representatives for Bańka, Helleland and Muyters for comment.