MARSEILLE (AFP) - Track legend Sebastian Coe, campaigning for the presidency of world athletics, said on Wednesday that Russia should not be kicked out of sport because of its doping scandal.
Mr Coe told AFP in an interview that Russia has been through "a difficult time" but it must be helped to set up a clean sports machine.
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) ethics committee is investigating multiple cases of alleged doping and attempts to cover up drug failures in Russia.
Mr Coe said the IAAF leadership "is about making sure that those federations who do have these challenges are not isolated or banned as some people have suggested".
"People are saying 'we must kick these federations out of sport'. No, actually good presidencies make sure that we help them create an environment and systems that do have integrity and do have trust and that is our responsibility as well," said Mr Coe, currently an IAAF vice-president.
Mr Coe praised comments by Russia's sports minister "talking in terms of wanting integrity and trust in sport. They have been through a difficult time but those are the right responses". Having at first denied claims of widespread doping made in a German television documentary, Russian athletics federation Valentin Balakhnichev resigned this month saying he had "failed" to control rising doping problems.
"I know that the ministry of sport in Russia and the Russian federation are very keen to establish good working relationships, to establish new systems and and new people and those are the right responses," said Mr Coe.
"The IAAF must do everything it can to help those federations that want to re-engineer and want to change," he added.
A number of top athletes in powerhouses Kenya and Jamaica have also failed tests in recent months. But Mr Coe said no sport should lecture athletics about doping.
"The IAAF does more testing than any other sport out there. We are very open and very transparent about how we test," said the former Olympic champion who masterminded the 2012 London Games.
More than 1,000 top athletes around the world are subject to tests each year which cost more than US$3 million (S$4 million) a year.
"The IAAF does more testing than any other sport out there," he said.
"We must never be complacent and we can always be better but I don't think our sport needs too many lectures about the efforts that it is taking." World and Olympic sprint champion Usain Bolt is also the world's most tested athlete and Mr Coe said athletics had to prepare for the Jamaican's retirement in 2017.
Mr Coe said the IAAF had to give "marketing support" to other stars such as Kenya's 800m Olympic champion David Rudisha, New Zealand shot putter Valerie Adams, Ukrainian high jumper Bogdan Bondarenko and Croatia's woman high jumper Blanka Vlasic, a former world athlete of the year.
"These are great, great athletes," said Mr Coe while adding that Bolt's departure would leave athletics facing the same dilemma as boxing when Muhammad Ali quit.
"This is the kind of question that the boxing community might have asked in the 1960s and 1970s - do you rely too heavily on Muhammad Ali?"
"Well the answer is probably yes and Usain Bolt is probably in that category so we have to make sure that we promote the other great competitors and that we market them and we provide resources for those member federations that unearth these great talents," said Mr Coe, who will be up against Ukrainian pole vault legend Sergey Bubka for the IAAF presidency in August.