Athletics Athletics

Arise, new IAAF president Lord Coe

Lord Sebastian Coe. PHOTO/File
New IAAF President Lord Sebastian Coe. PHOTO/File

BEIJING, August 19- Britain’s Sebastian Coe beat Sergey Bubka in a tight vote to become the new president of world athletics body the IAAF on Wednesday with a series of doping controversies at the top of his agenda.

Coe received 115 votes to Bubka’s 92, and will take over from Lamine Diack, who used his departing speech to take a defiant stab at the sport’s doping detractors, saying they had painted athletics as a “monster”.

Coe likened his victory, at an International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) congress in Beijing, to celebrating the birth of his four children.

“For most of us in this room, we would conclude that the birth of our children is a big moment in our lives, probably the biggest,” London-born Coe, 58, told the congress.

“But I have to say that being given the opportunity to work with all of you and shape the future of our sport is probably the second biggest and (most) momentous occasion of my life.

“In the best traditions of everything in what we believe in our sport, it was fought according to sound judgement throughout.”

Bubka had also stood for re-election as IAAF vice-president, and the former pole vault champion from Ukraine was duly voted in to the post along with Qatari Dahlan al-Hamad, Cameroon’s Hamad Kalkaba Malboum and Cuban Alberto Juantorena.

“This is my life. I continue to serve athletics with dignity and big passion,” said Bubka.

“I am a happy man… it was a great and interesting campaign, which is really important for this sport.”

Diack said track and field would prosper with Coe, who was a two-time Olympic 1500m gold medallist for Britain in 1980 and 1984 and also set eight outdoor and three indoor world records in middle-distance track events.

“Our sport is in safe hands,” Diack said.  “The white-haired generation has done what it can, now it’s over to the black-haired generation.”

– Media ‘monster’ –

Coe’s first job as IAAF president will be to defend athletics from stinging allegations of widespread doping which threaten to cast a dark cloud over the world championships which kick off on Saturday in Beijing.

The credibility of both athletics and the IAAF has come under repeated attack in recent weeks, after British and German media said a leaked database of 12,000 tests had revealed “extraordinary” levels of doping.

The IAAF slammed the allegations as “sensationalist and confusing” and also dismissed a later Sunday Times report that it blocked the publication of a document showing extensive doping among top athletes.

Diack, in his outgoing speech, again rounded on the media’s portrayal of doping in athletics.

“We have the world championships here in Beijing and people will say 80 percent of the athletes are bound to test positive. That’s absolutely not true,” he said.

“All champions need to be tested regularly,” he said, citing the establishment of the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) which cut down on the number of positive tests that came to light in the United States in the 1990s.

“If all countries followed that example, in Kenya, Morocco, Ethiopia and Turkey, and elsewhere, it will enable us to resolve this problem.”

Diack added: “We spend millions of dollars every year to ensure athletes are protected and remain clean.

“For weeks, people are talking about doping in athletics, the sport has turned into a monster in the eyes of newspapers, saying everyone is doped.

“Opinions are swayed in this way.”

Diack said it was important to remember that “everything done in terms of anti-doping in sport comes from athletics”.

But doping issues will nevertheless feature prominently at the Bird’s Nest stadium when US sprinter Justin Gatlin, twice banned for drugs but now in the form of his life aged 33, takes on Jamaican superstar Usain Bolt in the 100m on the opening weekend.