LONDON (REUTERS) - Sebastian Coe, the former two-time Olympic champion in the running to become the next president of the world governing body of athletics, said the sport felt angry and betrayed over accusations it failed to investigate hundreds of "suspicious" drug test results.
A day after the IAAF hit back at last weekend's allegations by Britain's Sunday Times newspaper and Germany's ARD/WDR broadcaster,he made an impassioned defence of track and field, telling the BBC the claims were "a declaration of war" on the sport.
"I don't think anyone should underestimate the anger which is felt in our sport in the betrayal of the last few days of our sport,"
Coe, who won gold medals in the 1,500 metres at the 1980 Moscow and 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, told the BBC's World Service on Wednesday.
"That in some way we sit on our hands, at best, and at worst are complicit in a cover-up, that is just not borne out by anything we have done as a sport in the past 15 years.
"We have led the way on out-of-competition independent testing, we have led the way on laboratories, we were the first sport to have arbitration panels, we introduced blood passports in 2009 because we wanted to elevate the science around weeding out the cheats."
The two news organisations making the claims said they had obtained secret test data from the vaults of the IAAF, supplied by a whistle-blower disgusted by the extent of doping in track and field.
The reports said the tests indicated suspected widespread blood doping in athletics between 2001 and 2012, raising new questions about the sport just weeks before the world championships in Beijing.
"What has angered me and angered our sport is the betrayal that we are doing absolutely nothing when we have led the way on this and have consistently done so," Coe said.
"Every athlete at the world championships in 2011 and 2013 was subject to blood tests, that's unprecedented. We spend two million dollars a year (on anti-doping) and we are not a rich sport, we have 10 full-time professionals."
The 58-year-old Coe, who is standing against former pole vaulter Sergei Bubka to run the IAAF when long-serving current president Lamine Diack stands down later this month, pointed to the fact that the governing body has a strong track record in rooting out cheats.
"We have got some of the highest profile names out of the sport in the last few years," he said. "This hasn't been easy for us, this has caused us intense embarrassment but we have always taken the view that we would rather have short-term embarrassment and protect the clean athletes."
He poured scorn on the idea that the IAAF had not shared blood-testing data with the World Anti-Doping Agency. "This is our database, we will and we have fully investigated and we will continue to do so and there are other cases that are subject to ongoing investigation," he said. "The assumption that we are not sharing this information is wholly false."