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Sport

Sebastian Coe recognises the reputation of athletics is on line

Sebastian Coe arrives at Millbank Studios in London on Monday
Picture: PA 
Martyn Ziegler

SEBASTIAN COE is prepared to deal with criticism over the International Association of Athletics Federations' handling of doping allegations and said he had always backed the investigation into systematic doping by Russian athletes.

Coe's predecessor as IAAF president was Lamine Diack, the 82-year-old Senegalese he praised after succeeding him in August, but who is now facing police charges in France for taking bribes to cover up positive drugs tests in Russia. In August, Coe also referred to claims about suspicious blood profiles involving some athletes as "a declaration of war on my sport".

Speaking after "state-sponsored" systematic corruption and cover-ups of doping by Russian athletes was exposed by a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) investigation led by Dick Pound, Coe admitted the sport's credibility was on the line.

Asked about his 'declaration of war' statement, Coe said: "Those words I used referred to the selective use of data to besmirch the reputation of clean athletes. It was never criticism of any news or media group.

"I actively welcomed the [Russian] investigation [by German broadcaster ARD] and made the point at the time that, if they did not trust the organisation [IAAF], to hand over the information to WADA."

Coe said his comments about Diack were made with no knowledge of the allegations against him: "I recognise that I am going to come in for some criticism," he added.

"But as Dick Pound actually said, I share his sentiments, I'm completely shocked. Dick Pound said very clearly that this was not IAAF policy - it was rogue individuals who have infiltrated the IAAF and if there are failings in our governance or our anti-doping programme I will fix them."

Coe said he had given the Russian athletics federation until the end of the week to respond to the WADA report.

Speaking via conference call, he said: "The allegations are deeply shocking and alarming and I accept that the sport's credibility is on the line."

Pound said he believed Coe could clean up the sport.

He said: "We were taken unaware too - there were some nasty surprises. Seb Coe is someone who can grasp this, I hope - his reputation is at risk if he doesn't." 

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