Tuesday 20 August 2019

Under-fire Coe insists he's the man to tackle doping scandal

IAAF president Sebastian Coe is under increasing pressure as a result of the fallout from the Russian doping scandal
IAAF president Sebastian Coe is under increasing pressure as a result of the fallout from the Russian doping scandal

Matt Majendie

Sebastian Coe is adamant he will not fail in his efforts to eradicate the scourge of doping from athletics.

Coe has found himself under fire for the shambolic state in which the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) finds itself, with his predecessor Lamine Diack on bail facing charges of corruption, bribery and money-laundering, and revelations of widespread doping by Russian athletes.

But the architect of London 2012 sounded a more combative note as the pressure mounts on the governing body and with further revelations set to follow by the end of the year when the WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) independent commission focuses on the IAAF.

"I won't fail," Coe said, "but I also accept this is a huge journey. This isn't six weeks to fix things, this is a long journey and we have to start somewhere. I know what I have to do."


Coe's credentials as the man to lead the fight against doping have been questioned for his failure to be aware of the apparent corruption during his eight years as vice-president to Diack. He's also under pressure to sever his ties with Nike, which pays him £100,000 (€142,000) in his ambassadorial role with the sportswear company.

Despite such criticism, Coe believes he can still be the saviour of athletics. He said: "You have to back your own instincts. I have to do this without fear or favour, and I fully accept I may not even be around when the full fruits of what I need to do are probably going to be recognised.

"But I will do that now and I'm going to back my own instincts and every day I'm going to remind myself why I walked into that athletics club at the age of 11 and the things that people did to help me along the way."

Coe has generally maintained the goodwill of British athletes, although the 400m runner Martyn Rooney accused him of being "naive" in his failure to see the alleged wrongdoing at the IAAF. "I can't believe that he didn't know what was going on," Rooney said, "and across the board - the whole IAAF - there needs to be a review."

The chairman of UK Athletics, Ed Warner, has pushed for wholesale reforms at the IAAF, particularly an overhaul of personnel on the executive committee, and Coe hinted that, when the IAAF Council's top brass meet in Monaco tomorrow, he would push for immediate change.

"I want to make sure I'm surrounded by people on that journey who are not just there because they've got a plastic accreditation around their neck, get the best seats in the stadium and have courtesy cars to take them everywhere," he said.

Although the WADA independent commission recommended Russian athletes be banned from all competitions until they become compliant with the WADA code, Coe has suggested that suspension of an entire nation is not the way forward.

The council, though, is expected to ratify the recommendation but, whatever sanction is dished out to Russia, it looks likely their team will still be deemed fit in time to compete at next August's Olympic Games in Rio.

The International Olympic Committee chairman, Thomas Bach, hinted that he did not expect the nation to become the first in Olympic history to be banned from a Games for wholesale doping.

"Now we have this inquiry about athletics, the International Federation will draw its conclusion and will take the necessary measures," Bach said. "We're convinced that president Sebastian Coe will do whatever is necessary."

Jo Pavey, crowned 10,000m European champion last year, has been among those to have been denied greater glory on the track as a result of Russian doping. She finished fifth at the 2002 Europeans behind Yelena Zadorozhnaya, who recorded a positive test last year, and Olga Yegorova, who served a two-year ban in 2008 for tampering with drug samples.

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