Saturday 25 November 2017

Sebastian Coe denies underestimating the doping and corruption crisis in the IAAF

IAAF president Seb Coe
IAAF president Seb Coe

IAAF president Sebastian Coe insists he does not underestimate the seriousness of the doping and corruption crisis engulfing athletics' world governing body.

And Coe, who says he has not considered stepping down from his position at the head of the beleaguered organisation, is confident no allegations will emerge which directly implicate him in wrongdoing.

The IAAF is braced for further blows to its credibility on Thursday when the second part of the World Anti-Doping Agency report into Russian doping is revealed. Part one laid bare state-sponsored doping in the country which resulted in it being suspended by the IAAF.

Coe said in an interview with CNN: "One of the accusations is that I don't sort of get the seriousness of this issue - I do. I'm dealing with it every day and I have been dealing with this since effectively the first day I took over the role as president."

He added: "Our sport is a strong sport. Don't run away with the idea that I don't know that these are dark days, of course they're dark days.

"The crisis actually was probably two or three years ago when what we're having to deal with was taking place. Our responsibly now is to make those changes and to take the sport into safe territory."

Last week three of athletics' leading figures - Papa Massata Diack, the son of the former IAAF president Lamine Diack and a marketing consultant for the organisation, former Russian athletics federation (ARAF) president and IAAF treasurer Valentin Balakhnichev, and Alexei Melnikov, a senior ARAF coach - were handed lifetime bans by the IAAF's ethics commission for blackmailing athletes and covering up positive drugs tests.

Lamine Diack, Lord Coe's predecessor as president, is the subject of a police investigation over claims he took money to cover up positive tests by Russian athletes.

Meanwhile, Coe's right-hand man at the IAAF, Nick Davies, has stepped aside from his role as the director of the president's office while he is investigated by the IAAF's ethics commission.

Davies faces allegations of unethical behaviour after the French newspaper Le Monde obtained a copy of an email sent by him in which he appears to discuss delaying the identification of Russian drug cheats in the run-up to the 2013 World Championships in Moscow. He denies any wrongdoing.

However, Coe said he did not regret standing for president, saying: "Not for one moment and why would I? This is a sport for which I owe everything."

Asked if he had thought about stepping down, he said: "No, because the day-to-day duties of a president is to make sure the sport is in safe keeping.

"My focus every day, every hour of that day is to help shape the future of our sport. I am focused entirely on putting changes in place that leave the sport in safe and secure hands. And that is my only focus now."

The IAAF was on Tuesday night forced to deny any suggestion it looked to cover up Russian doping cases in the run-up to the London Olympics.

It was reported that leaked internal documents from athletics' beleaguered world governing body showed that before the 2012 Games it proposed keeping doping bans for less well-known Russian athletes under wraps.

The IAAF said in a statement that "all confirmed doping cases were publicly sanctioned" and that "nothing was covered up".

Coe said he was not worried about being directly implicated in any wrongdoing.

"There is no cover-up here," he said, adding: "I'm confident, I'm confident because the systems that I'm now putting in place are the systems that will remedy those weaknesses."

Coe also admitted that further countries could join Russia in being banned by the IAAF should evidence of systematic doping be uncovered.

"We know we have suffered a disproportionate amount of damage from a relatively small number of countries," he said.

"If we are not satisfied at the IAAF that the countries we are looking very, very closely at are not prepared to make the changes that we want then sanctions could follow."

Press Association

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