Sebastian Coe has received crucial backing to remain as IAAF president despite another damning report on athletics’ doping scandal and admitting that he leads a “failed organisation”.
Coe also apologised for some “clumsy” responses to the crisis which has engulfed athletics after a new report by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)’s independent commission identified serious failures in the IAAF.
The commission said the IAAF Council – which included Coe – “could not have been unaware of the extent of doping in athletics”. It stated Coe’s right-hand man Nick Davies, who stepped aside from his position as IAAF chief of staff last month, was “well aware of Russian ’skeletons’ in the cupboard”.
Despite those findings, commission chairman Dick Pound said the double Olympic 1,500m champion Coe remains the best man to reform the IAAF after years of corruption and nepotism under his Senegalese predecessor Lamine Diack, who orchestrated a conspiracy to secure bribes from athletes to cover up positive drugs tests and used his two sons to collect the money.
Speaking in Munich after the publication of the report, Coe accepted the IAAF had to regain trust. He said: “I’m very grateful for the personal endorsement of Dick but he’s not somebody that pulls his punches. I was very open with him and said I was very grateful for the work he has done and I hoped he did not think that me or the organisation was in denial about this.
“We can’t just sit here and say we deserve trust. We don’t – we have to win that back.” Asked how he felt about the scandal, he added: “Pained. Pained. It’s horrendous. You don’t sit there thinking this is the sport you started out in as an 11-year-old. I have one objective now. That is to get this back into safe hands.” “The moment I became president, the IAAF was being criticised for all sorts of things.
“If, on occasions, my language has been clumsy, I apologise. It’s never meant to be. I know how serious this is. The overall issue about whether or not we are in an organisation that has failed, I tell you we have. I know that. We are a failed organisation.
“I’m sorry if my language has in any way demonstrated a sort of a lack of understanding about the depth of this.” He added the corruption and extortion revelations had been “absolutely abhorrent”, saying: “We have to make sure our sport can never ever return to the horror show that we’ve witnessed in the last few years.” The commission laid bare the influence of Diack, who created a cabal around him which took control of Russian doping cases, as well as at least one Turkish case, and then extorted money from athletes to cover up positive tests.The report states: “The IAAF Council could not have been unaware of the extent of doping in athletics and the non-enforcement of applicable anti-doping rules.There was an evident lack of political appetite within the IAAF to confront Russia with the full extent of its known and suspected doping activities.”
But Pound told a news conference in Munich: “This is a fabulous opportunity for the IAAF to seize this opportunity and under strong leadership move forward from this, but there is an enormous amount of work to do. I can’t think of anyone better than Lord Coe. I don’t want to lay failures of an entire council at the feet of one individual.
“You learn from experience. And, as they say, experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want.” Pound later told reporters it would have been difficult for Coe to act alone even though all IAAF Council members would have been aware of the nepotism and problems with Russian doping.
He added: “For a council member to say at the time, ’Lamine, what the ****? You’ve got your personal counsel being paid, you’ve got two of your kids working here, this doesn’t look good for us’ – that’s the sort of thing that’s very hard to have happen.”
Pound’s report was tougher on the IAAF Council, saying it was too easy just to blame the failures on Diack, who along with his son Papa Massata Diack and other officials is under investigation by French police.
The IAAF’s ethics commission is investigating Davies’ case but the commission’s remarks make it unlikely he will be able to return to the organisation. The report also reveals Diack told the IAAF”s legal chief Huw Roberts Russian doping cases ahead of the 2013 Moscow world championships left him “in a difficult position that could only be resolved by President Putin of Russia with whom he had struck up a friendship”.
Another commission member Richard McClaren said the named runners who had been blackmailed, including the 2010 London marathon winner Liliya Shobukhova, may only be “the tip of the iceberg with respect to athletes who have been extorted”.
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