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Coe sets out vision for reformed IAAF

Sebastian Coe took over as IAAF president in August 2015.
Sebastian Coe took over as IAAF president in August 2015. Reuters/Leonhard Foeger
4 min

Sebastian Coe, the president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), vowed on Tuesday to pursue the drugs cheats who are shaming the sport with a revamp of the scandal hit 104-year-old organisation.


He made the pledge to root out the dopers via a new independent integrity unit. It is one of a series of proposals outlined in the 15 page document Time for Change.

Coe hopes the blueprint will restore the sullied image of athletics.

Housed separately from the Monaco-based IAAF, the unit will have its own staff and will investigate and prosecute international level athletes who try to flout the rules.

"I think the unit best safeguards our sport against the cheats who are prepared to use performance enhancing drugs," said Coe. "We can streamline. We can speed up. But I think the integrity unit will make a very big difference."

Speaking in London just after completing a world tour to explain his vision, the former Olympic gold medallist, told RFI : "The mood has been good. It has been realistic. People understand in the federations that we have been through a very challenging time - probably a time in a way our sport has never been challenged before."

"The integrity unit will introduce far greater independence - in fact almost total independence - around results management," he added. "The burden will be removed from the member federation of being involved in the handling of the sanctions because sometimes federations have managed to slow it down.

"We want the process to be independent of national interests and independent of member federation interests."

Coe said the unit would also look into illegal betting and transfers of allegiance. It would also crack down on athletes who lie about their age. "It's all about results management which impinge on the safety and ethical standards of our sport," he added.


The 60-year-old Londoner succeeded Lamine Diack as president in August 2015 and is the sixth head of the IAAF. He has been firefighting since the outset of his reign. His predecessor as well as key IAAF staff have been implicated in doping and corruption scandals. Coe too has been dragged into the mire.

Last month the IAAF’s ethics board backed him after Coe denied discussing rumours that officials from Qatar had been paying bribes in an effort to capture the right to host the 2017 IAAF world championships. The board said it had found no evidence of bribery attempts or that Coe had been aware of any or discussed them.

A new disciplinary tribunal will replace the ethics board under Coe's reforms. It will decide punishments and will be made up of lawyers. "We want the tribunal to make its decisions far quicker and to get the cheats out of the sport quicker," he said.

The package of changes which also include new procedures on auditing and a values commission, will be voted on at a meeting of the IAAF special congress in Monaco on 3 December. "The walls were too high in the past," said Coe. "These reforms will make sure that the walls are never too high and people are really able to be accountable and challenged - from presidents to council members and the decision makers in the sport."

Last November, the World Anti-Doping agency, Wada, published its report, which found systemic failures in the IAAF had prevented an effective anti-doping programme and concluded that Russia should be banned from competing in international competitions because of its athletes' test results.


Russian athletes were eventually barred from the Olympic games in Rio in August. Kenyan athletes had skirted with a similar punishment after the country's anti-doping programme was judged in the prelude to the games to be ineffective. "We looked at their domestic anti-doping programmes, " said Coe. "Our view was that we need to be more proactive and we needed to support them in developing those programmes. Our teams are permanently monitoring that and in some cases we have seen an improved system."

Once the reform phase is over, Coe said he would throw his weight behind other ideas  such as continental rotation for the world championships.

"I've been very clear in my commitment to Africa," said the former 800 and 1500m champion. "I said I want to see a world championships in Africa within a decade. I'm very keen to see that happen. I've helped to create a Diamond League meeting in Africa and I'm very pleased with that.

"There may be an argument that we are not getting the best out of our bidding system and that we look where we best strategically need to be to grow the sport and that we look at how to make sure that our championships are held in those cities and in those continents and regions."


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