PARIS, November 8 – IAAF president Sebastian Coe on Sunday expressed his “shock, anger and sadness” at allegations of high-level bribery to cover up doping in track and field.
“I’m shocked, angry and largely saddened,” Coe told AFP, adding that the allegations that surfaced on Monday had come as a complete surprise.
“The allegations that we woke up to around the potential for extortion and blackmail came out of the blue and the vast majority in the sport probably share exactly the same emotions I’ve just expressed. It’s shock, anger and sadness.”
Lamine Diack, from whom Coe took over the mantle of IAAF president in August, was on Wednesday charged by French police with corruption over suspicions he took bribes worth more than one million euros ($1.09 million) to cover up doping cases involving Russian athletes.
The IAAF have also opened disciplinary proceedings against one of Diack’s sons and three others including their own former treasurer and ex-doping chief.
Asked whether he had been in touch with Lamine Diack, the 82-year-old Senegalese who he had praised as the “spiritual leader” of the IAAF when he won the election to succeed him, Coe replied: “No.”
Coe added: “I’m determined more than ever that we will drive the review that I started the day after I became elected. Through the IAAF, we will drive those and accelerate them even harder.
“The allegations that we were confronted with on Monday, we had no feel for.”
Coe, a two-time Olympic 1500 metres gold medallist for Britain, insisted that the IAAF’s anti-doping strategy was not completely flawed.
“Our sport was the pioneering partner in the blood passport,” he said. “It was introduced in 2009 and the very first sanction was in place in 2011.
“Since then, through the use of the blood passport there have been 85 sanctions in the whole of sport and 69 of them have come from athletics.
That’s more than any other sport and more than every other sport put together and interestingly more than through any national anti-doping agency. So no, we’re not complacent.
“The best way to cover up an anti-doping case is not to test the athletes.”
But according to a report due to be published Monday, the scale of doping corruption and money laundering within athletics dwarfs the financial scandals engulfing FIFA, world football’s scandal-tainted governing body.
An independent commission set up by WADA is due to publish its findings in Geneva on Monday, with report co-author Richard McLaren telling BBC it would be a “real game-changer for sport”.
“You potentially have a bunch of old men who put a whole lot of extra money in their pockets — through extortion and bribes – but also caused significant changes to actual results and final standings of international athletics competitions.”
The report is expected to be critical of both the IAAF and Russian athletics officials.
Coe, who has not seen the report, told AFP he had no interest in comparing the IAAF’s woes to those of FIFA.
“I’m not benchmarking the current situation we’re in with any other sport or any other organisation,” the former British conservative politician said.
“My responsibility is very clear and it’s a responsibility that I have on behalf of the sport and that is to rebuild trust — and that in itself is going to be a long road and we shouldn’t kid ourselves — and it is to create an organisation that is accountable, responsible and responsive.
“This is not going to be an easy road and the journey is not going to be short, but I’m determined that we will get there, we have to.”
Coe beat off pole vault legend Sergey Bubka to take over from Diack on the back of a strong anti-doping stance, including the establishment of an independent anti-doping agency.
“It will go ahead and sit within an internal integrity unity, not just looking at and dealing with anti-doping issues but other issues of integrity,” Coe said.
“But the main thing that will come from that are the hearings. We will set up an independent tribunal so that the hearings will not be within the control of member federations.
“I will be taking to the IAAF Council meeting in Monaco in November a raft of reforms and changes and I expect to get them through.
“That work started the day after I got elected. It has been accelerated since the allegations that emerged on Monday.”