Friday 18 October 2019

Paula Radcliffe backs Seb Coe to restore IAAF reputation

IAAF president Seb Coe
IAAF president Seb Coe

Paula Radcliffe added her backing for IAAF president Seb Coe to turn things around for athletics after another damning report on its doping scandal.

A second report compiled by an independent commission of World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said on Thursday that the IAAF Council - which included Seb Coe - ''could not have been unaware of the extent of doping in athletics''.

Despite those findings, commission chairman Dick Pound said the double Olympic 1,500m champion remained the best man to reform the IAAF after years of corruption and nepotism under his Senegalese predecessor Lamine Diack.

And marathon world record holder Radcliffe - who in November was declared innocent of any blood doping by the IAAF after being publicly accused - agrees.

She said on Sky News: "Yes, I absolutely do believe that. He is a strong person. He put himself forward to run for president when, as Dick Pound says, he couldn't have been unaware of the state that the sport was in and the changes that needed to be made. He needed to be in position to instigate those changes. I do believe he's someone who cares deeply about our sport and will fight to put those changes in place."

Radcliffe added on BBC Radio Five Live: "People needed to shout louder. That is a key argument that can be used against all members of that council. They must have had some inclination.

"Either they just didn't pick up on it and didn't notice or they just turned a blind eye, which is worse, or they just totally looked the other way, which is even worse.

"Probably, if you ask Seb (Coe) honestly, he would be the first to admit that he wasn't fully there for a lot of that tenure. He was concentrating on London, he was concentrating on other things and it's only really in the run-up to the presidential elections, and since then, that he has been fully invested in seeing what's going on.

"And I think that's why now he is putting the right changes in place. Should questions have been asked and should people have challenged (Lamine) Diack more? Of course more people should have done that."

Regarding her own situation, she added on Sky News: "I was a little bit disappointed, given I had submitted written requests to the independent commission - and specifically to WADA - asking the WADA experts to release their evaluation of my data and it didn't quite go that far. But I think they did underline the fact that those allegations did not have substance."

European 10,000m champion Jo Pavey was left baffled regarding WADA's assertion that council members could not have been in the dark.

"It's a very low point for the sport, the fact you've got the governing body actually being involved in criminal acts. But we're talking about certain individuals," she said on Sky.

"But questions need to be asked of why people in the IAAF weren't aware of these sort of things going on. And then you hear WADA talking about the fact they are saying council members would've been aware of these activities going on in the IAAF, and all that is really disappointing and quite confusing in a lot of ways."

Sports Minister Tracey Crouch branded the WADA's latest report "extremely alarming" and said it "raises huge questions about governance at the IAAF".

Crouch said: "The findings of WADA's independent commission are extremely alarming. It raises huge questions about governance at the IAAF that have to be addressed as a matter of absolute urgency.

"Athletes and sports fans alike have to have faith in the international body that is there to support them and promote clean sport. The IAAF must do all it can to restore its credibility. The government is committed to helping tackle corruption in sport and this issue will be on the agenda at our major anti-corruption summit later this year."

The WADA report said that Coe's right-hand man Nick Davies, who stepped aside from his role as the director of the president's office last month while he is investigated by the IAAF's ethics commission, was ''well aware of Russian 'skeletons' in the cupboard''.

And MP Damian Collins demanded Coe ditch Davies for good.

The culture, media and sport select committee member said on Twitter: "WADA scathing of Nick Davies who must have known of "skeletons in Russian closet". #IAAF must confirm his suspension will be made permanent."

WADA president Sir Craig Reedie described the extent of corruption at the IAAF as "hugely disturbing" and called on Coe to take heed of its recommendations.

Reedie said: "It is hugely disturbing that individuals at the highest levels of the IAAF were abetting and covering up doping for their own financial gain.

"This flagrant disregard for the law and anti-doping rules undermines trust amongst clean athletes, and indeed the public, worldwide. Given their criminal nature, the actions of these individuals are now in the hands of the French justice system."

Coe's predecessor as IAAF president Diack and his son Papa Massata Diack are the subject of a French police investigation over claims they took money to cover up positive tests by Russian athletes.

Reedie added: "I would like to thank the courageous whistle-blowers and investigative journalists who brought this information to WADA; and, in turn, I would like to commend the independent commission for its thorough and impactful work of the past year.

"It is now important that the IAAF, under the leadership of Sebastian Coe, adopts the recommendations of the report in full. For our part, WADA looks forward to working alongside the IAAF to strengthen its anti-doping activities and regain the confidence of its clean athletes worldwide."

Pound, speaking in Munich, gave his full backing to Coe remaining as IAAF president, despite the report's damning verdict on the organisation's response to Russian doping.

And shadow sports minister Clive Efford suggested there were no credible alternatives to Coe.

He said on BBC Sport: "The IAAF is clearly an organisation in need of fundamental reform.

"But Dick Pound is also saying, reading between the lines, that you should be careful what you wish for.

"If you bring down Seb Coe, you never know who might come in."

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