Athletics: Despite pounding, Coe is seen as the rescuer

IAAF president Sebastian Coe, who took over the reins of the world track and field body last year from the now-disgraced Lamine Diack, acknowledges that its council should have detected the corruption. But Dick Pound, head of Wada's independent commi
IAAF president Sebastian Coe, who took over the reins of the world track and field body last year from the now-disgraced Lamine Diack, acknowledges that its council should have detected the corruption. But Dick Pound, head of Wada's independent commission, said that he "couldn't think of anyone better" to lead athletics out of its crisis.PHOTO: REUTERS

Briton vows to learn from wrongdoing and implement reforms; bidding for world c'ships also seen as suspect

MUNICH • The organisation that he leads had just been battered. Athletics had sunk to a new low. But, oddly, Thursday was a day of relief for Sebastian Coe.

Sitting in row five, amid some of his fiercest media critics at a hotel on the outskirts of Munich, Coe listened as Dick Pound, head of the World Anti-Doping Authority's (Wada) independent commission, said that he "couldn't think of anyone better" to lead athletics out of its crisis than the IAAF president.

Pound had promised a "wow factor" in the second part of the Wada report and that might just have been the moment that brought audible surprise.

Coe is the best man available despite being a long-time member of what he admitted had become "a failed organisation".

 

The Wada commission report, after all, exposed the corrupt regime of former president Lamine Diack and said senior figures of the Monaco-based federation were complicit in keeping tainted athletes in competition, extorting money from them and delaying the processing of drug test violations.

Coe accepted that the organisation's council should have been aware of the corruption and said he would introduce reforms to ensure there would be no repeat.

"I will put systems in place for the current council and so that my successor is never in a position that we don't understand the nature of the day-to-day running of the organisation," he said.

"We cannot change the past, but I am determined that we will learn from it and will not repeat its mistakes."

Pound had already rocked the sport in November with the release of the first part of his report, which led to athletics superpower Russia being banned from competition for state-sponsored doping.

The sequel shifted the focus to athletics' world governing body, raising fresh questions about how compromised officials can be in investigating and disciplining doping violations.

The awarding of hosting rights for major competitions is now under the microscope too.

The Wada investigators fear the bidding process for every world championships since 2009 and up to 2019 may have been corrupted.

"We have information, we don't have hard evidence. But it's enough information that it bears serious investigation," said Richard McClaren, one of the three members of the independent commission.

Moscow hosted the 2013 event, Beijing in 2015, with London the 2017 hosts and Doha in 2019.

The awarding of the 2021 event to Eugene, Oregon, has also caused controversy because of the lack of a proper bidding process and the potential influence of sportswear giant Nike, which is based nearby.

The 2020 Olympic Games were also dragged into the scandal after a revelation that millions of dollars in sponsorship money paid to athletics may have been a significant factor in the vote.

Diack is said to have dropped his support for Istanbul after it did not pay up to US$5 million (S$7.2 million) to the Diamond League or the IAAF.

Japan, whose capital, Tokyo, won the vote in 2013, paid the sponsorship money, according to transcripts obtained by the commission.

The Tokyo Olympics organising committee, however, yesterday dismissed those suggestions, which were buried as a footnote on page 34 of the 89-page report.

Hikariko Ono, spokesman for the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, said in an e-mail: "The Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee considers that the note in the report is beyond our understanding.

"The Games were awarded to Tokyo because the city presented the best bid."

THE TIMES, LONDON, THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 16, 2016, with the headline 'DESPITE POUNDING, COE IS SEEN AS THE RESCUER'. Print Edition | Subscribe