Coe sees 'long road' ahead to restore trust

IAAF boss Sebastian Coe is shocked that administrators "allegedly extorted money from athletes guilty of doping violations".
IAAF boss Sebastian Coe is shocked that administrators "allegedly extorted money from athletes guilty of doping violations".PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • World athletics president Sebastian Coe said he reacted with "shock, anger and sadness" to last week's allegations of bribery, extortion and doping cover-ups and said the sport faces a "long road to redemption".

Coe, elected president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) in August, has been dealing with the latest crisis to hit athletics after French authorities last week placed his long-serving predecessor Lamine Diack under formal investigation on suspicion of corruption and money laundering.

Senegalese Diack, 82, is alleged to have received more than €1 million (S$1.52 million) in bribes in 2011 to cover up positive doping tests of Russian athletes.

His family has dismissed the accusations, calling them excessive and insignificant.

Coe told BBC Radio Five Live yesterday: "I was in clear shock and a great deal of anger and a lot of sadness. These are dark days for our sport, but I'm more determined than ever to rebuild the trust in our sport.

"It's not going to be a short journey and the day after I got elected, I started a massive review. Understandably, in light of the allegations that were made this week, that review has been accelerated.

"I'm determined to rebuild and repair the sport with my council colleagues, but this is a long road to redemption."

His latest comments come after he broke his silence with a statement to Britain's Sunday Times newspaper.

"That people in our sport have allegedly extorted money from athletes guilty of doping violations is abhorrent," said the the two-time Olympic 1,500m gold medallist.

The IAAF has also opened disciplinary proceedings against one of Diack's sons and its own former treasurer and former doping chief.

According to a report due to be published today, the scale of doping corruption and money laundering within athletics dwarfs the financial scandals engulfing Fifa, football's embattled world body.

An independent commission set up by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) is due to publish its findings today and report co-author Richard McLaren told the BBC: "This is going to be a real game-changer for sport.

"You potentially have a bunch of old men who put a whole lot of extra money in their pockets - through extortion and bribes - but also caused significant changes to actual results and final standings of international athletics competitions."

The report is expected to be critical of both the IAAF and Russian athletics officials.

A former Russian athletics chief was on Saturday forced to reject allegations that his federation worked with top officials from the IAAF to try to blackmail athletes in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics.

Valentin Balakhnichev told Russian news agencies the problems in international athletics were fuelled by political pressures, as was the corruption scandal surrounding Fifa.

"Let them present their claims to me, I will fight them," he was quoted as saying. "This is purely political."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 09, 2015, with the headline 'Coe sees 'long road' ahead to restore trust'. Print Edition | Subscribe