LONDON, December 3- World athletics president Sebastian Coe refused to apologise on Wednesday for describing allegations of blood doping in his embattled sport as a “declaration of war”.
Coe, president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), made the remark in August after the Sunday Times and German broadcaster ARD claimed to have unearthed evidence of hundreds of suspicious blood samples.
An independent commission of the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) subsequently published evidence of state-supported doping by Russian athletes and a second WADA report is looking into allegations the IAAF covered up positive tests.
But asked if he regretted what he had said, Coe told the British parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport committee at a hearing in London: “I don’t step back from that.
“I’m sorry this has mutated into shorthand for an attack on the media. It was never that. I will die in a ditch for the right of media groups to challenge me, question my motives and call my sport to task.
“But the issue I took exception to was the very selective use of data that could not possibly be used in and of itself to prove positive tests,” he said.
However, when asked if he regretted his exact choice of words, he said: “I stick by the sentiments. I probably might have chosen different language.”
Coe cited women’s marathon world record-holder Paula Radcliffe as a “very good example” of someone who had been unfairly caught up in accusations of doping.
The IAAF said last week that Radcliffe was “entirely innocent” of doping, after she appeared to be implicated during a previous British parliamentary committee hearing.
Prior to becoming IAAF vice-president in 2007, Coe was appointed as the first ethics commission chairman for world football’s governing body FIFA, an organisation currently mired in corruption allegations of its own.
He therefore has links to two of the biggest scandals in modern sport, but he was bullish when he was asked why people should believe that he is the right person to clean up athletics.
“Because I have the experience to do that. I have the support of the sport to do that,” said Coe, who was appointed IAAF president in August.
“Have there been failures? Yes. Will we fix them? Absolutely. I’m absolutely focused on doing that. If we don’t do that, there are no tomorrows for my sport. This is the crossroads.”
Coe said that he was prepared to double the IAAF’s anti-doping budget, which he said currently stands at $4 million (5.7 million euros), “if I have to”.
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