Coe won't have arm twisted over Russian ban

LAUSANNE • International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) president Sebastian Coe has shaved off his beard, but changing the face of his sport will be harder.

In a restaurant down the road from the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, just up from the lake-side clock counting down to August's Rio de Janeiro Games, Coe said he refuses to be bullied over Russia and the IAAF would consider stripping Eugene of the 2021 World Championships if French investigators uncover corruption.

In a defiant defence of his sport, the IAAF president said he will pull no punches if French prosecutors find evidence of money-laundering, corruption or a criminal conspiracy with regards to bids for the World Championships, including London 2017 and Eugene 2021.

With the World Indoor Championships heading to Portland this week, the attention is firmly on Eugene in the same state of Oregon.

Asked if a re-vote for the 2021 event was an option, Coe said: "If anything comes out that shows those decisions were made on anything other than the reasons we believe then we have to review them and review them quickly. We will pull them in."

French prosecutors are also looking at Doha 2019. He said: "I've written to heads of state saying, 'Please cooperate with the French authorities. If those countries that the French prosecutors are looking at need help, please be as proactive as you can to bring this sorry saga to as swift a conclusion as possible.' "

The Briton said he did not speak to Papa Massata Diack, the former marketing consultant accused of extortion and bribery, before the controversial vote for Eugene.

"Before Eugene - no, I certainly didn't," he said.

Seven months into a four-year term as president, Coe believes his reforms will be in place by London 2017. "The return to trust may be beyond my time," he said. "That can't bother me. I can't say I need to be president when that happens. I probably won't be. We will get the reforms across the line and then I'll make judgments about what I want to do with the rest of my life."

Vitaly Mutko, the Russian Sports Minister, thinks his nation's athletes should be readmitted to the international fold after they were banned on the recommendation of the World Anti-Doping Agency's independent commission.

Claiming that the IAAF criteria had now been met, he asked if Russia was expected to "dance on the table" or "sing a song".

Ed Warner, the UK Athletics chairman, sang a different tune, saying that Coe would "invite derision" if the ban on Russia were lifted.

Coe said he would not be moved by either, dubbing Mutko's words as "noises off" and saying Warner's decision to "personalise" the issue was "not helpful".

He said: "All due respect, I can't be in the commentator world. I'm not a Monday night quarter-back. I have responsibility as federation president to get verifiable change from a system that caused a massive amount of damage to our sport."

The decision is coming in May after the IAAF Council last week reached the unanimous conclusion that not enough had yet been done.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2016, with the headline 'Coe won't have arm twisted over Russian ban'. Print Edition | Subscribe