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IAAF candidate Coe: We can’t lose dope war

SEB-COELONDON, December 3- British athletics great Sebastian Coe vowed to shake up the sport’s global calendar on Wednesday as he launched his bid for the presidency of world governing body the IAAF.

The two-time Olympic 1,500 metres champion wants to attract more young people to the sport by creating ‘street athletics’ events and also pledged to crack down on the scourge of doping.

Coe, the current IAAF vice-president, hopes to succeed current president Lamine Diack, who will step down in August. His main rival is expected to be Ukrainian former pole vault champion Sergei Bubka.

Speaking at a press conference in central London to launch his manifesto, Coe said: “To many within and outside our sport, our calendar seems disjointed, lacks a narrative and the essential glue to build excitement and a loyal and passionate following.

“Many fans don’t know when the athletics season starts, when it ends, why it seems to bounce around from the USA to Europe to Asia and back again.

“A harmonised calendar is the key to promotion, marketing, the athletes and member federation development, and we must address this.

“We need to be more innovative in how we project and present our sport to the world, both in venue and on screen, give serious consideration to an ‘IAAF Street Athletics’ circuit to help reach new audiences, and create a new IAAF division that has the sole purpose of focusing on youth engagement, especially via social media.”

Explaining the appeal of street athletics, he said: “It’s often easier to show the athleticism of an event when it’s benchmarked against a shop window or the height of a bus. It has a reality for young people.”

The ‘four pillars’ of Coe’s manifesto are: reforming the world athletics calendar; maximising commercial growth and youth engagement; increasing resources for anti-doping and creating a new IAAF ethics department; and giving athletes a greater voice within the IAAF.

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He also said that doping was not the only threat currently facing the sport’s integrity.

– ‘War we cannot lose’ –

“It is not just the drugs problem; it goes to some of the challenges we will have around illegal betting, age manipulation, about the challenges of transfers of allegiance, making sure athletes are not tradable commodities around the international circuit,” he said.

“It goes to trust, and on the drug issue, it is a war we cannot lose.

“It is the trust that the athletes lining up against each other know that they are competing against athletes who are aware the outcome is going to be based on hard work, talent, great coaching –- not because lane five has a better set of chemists than lane six.”

He added: “The vision and proposals that I am unveiling today are designed to increase the reach and appeal of athletics in a world that is rapidly changing.

“I believe that it is essential that we open up a real debate and take a long hard look at the ‘product’ of athletics if we aim to attract more young people into our sport and drive increased participation and income.

“We must be ready to be creative, take action and embrace change.”

Former Moroccan hurdler Nawal El Moutawakel, the first Muslim woman to win an Olympic gold medal, has also been tipped to stand for election.

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The deadline for candidates to register for the vote is May 2015. The election will take place at the IAAF Congress in Beijing in August.

Coe is remembered for fighting thrilling rivalries with compatriots Steve Ovett and Steve Cram during the 1980s. He set 11 world records and also won two Olympic silver medals in the 800m.

After retiring from athletics in the early 1990s, the Chelsea supporter began a political career and was a member of parliament for the ruling Conservative party between 1992 and 1997.

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