Sebastian Coe comes out fighting at select committee

IAAF president Sebastian Coe  
Matt McGeehan

SEBASTIAN COE insisted he is the right man to guide athletics through its doping crisis, but was accused of lacking curiosity during a three-hour inquisition in which the embattled IAAF president offered as many questions as answers.

Coe on Wednesday gave evidence to MPs from the British government's culture, media and sport select committee investigating blood doping in athletics following revelations made in August. The former Olympic 1,500 metres champion has no regrets since being made president and is determined to navigate through the furore sparked when a World Anti-Doping Agency independent commission report detailed systematic, state-sponsored doping and related corruption in Russia.

Russia has since been suspended by world governing body the IAAF and its athletes could potentially miss the 2016 Olympic Games. Coe believes he can drive through change, and said: "I am absolutely focused on doing that and, if we don't do that, I know there are no tomorrows in our sport. This is a crossroads."

Coe, who became an IAAF vice-president in 2007, denied the IAAF had an "acceptance" of doping. He was grilled over whether he had any concerns over predecessor Lamine Diack, who is currently under criminal investigation following allegations Russian athletes were protected after failing drugs tests.

Asked for his reaction to Diack being placed under investigation, Coe said: "Shock. Shock suffused with sorrow and anger.

"I said, for many in the sport, he would always be seen as a spiritual force in athletics. Clearly, if I'd been sitting with a charge sheet of allegations in front of me, I probably wouldn't have said that."

Coe was aware of allegations about Diack's son Papa Massata Diack made in a documentary by German broadcaster ARD last year. Diack junior stepped down from his role at the IAAF in the wake of the broadcast.

Asked if he had spoken to Lamine Diack, then the IAAF president, about the allegations, Coe said: "No because there were no allegations being made about the president. I did not ask the president directly."

Coe was then asked to "describe his lack of curiosity" and indicated it was down to a probe already being ongoing.

He said: "Confirmation that the IAAF ethics committee, under the chairmanship of Michael Beloff, had already started an investigation into some of these issues."

Committee chairman Jesse Norman said "you appear to be oblivious" after Coe sidestepped questions relating to ongoing criminal cases.

Coe said: "Not oblivious, but not across the individual allegations that have surfaced recently."

Athletics officials in Kenya are under investigation regarding allegations linked to Qatar's successful bid for the 2019 World Championships, but Coe refused to say if the investigation would widen to the whole bid.

The American city of Eugene was unsuccessful in its bid for 2019, but was awarded the 2021 event without it going to a vote. Coe said it was a strategic decision to take the event to the United States, but Eugene is near the home of sportswear giant Nike, which, until last week, employed Coe as an ambassador on a reported £100,000 a year. Coe rebuffed suggestions of a conflict of interest, despite an email emerging last week which suggested he lobbied his predecessor over Eugene.

"Nike were not uniquely asking that question, this was a question being asked widely across the sport," Coe said.

He again denied his Nike role was a conflict of interest, but said he ended a 38-year association due to "the level of noise around the relationship" that had become "a monstrous distraction". He described investigations into suspicious blood results as "a declaration of war on our sport" in August. He has since insisted he was only referring to stories which had tainted the reputation of clean athletes.

"I stick by the sentiments, I probably might have chosen different language," he said.

"It probably expressed my frustration and yes, anger at the time. The issue I took exception to was the very select use of data which could not be used, in and of itself, to prove positive tests."

Coe pointed to Paula Radcliffe as an example. The marathon world record holder was last week declared innocent of any blood doping by the IAAF and WADA after claiming she had been effectively identified by the committee of MPs as having provided suspicious blood samples. 


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