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Coe gives Russia until end of week to respond

LORD COE

IAAF president Sebastian Coe

LONDON, November 10 – World athletics chief Sebastian Coe wants the Russian federation to respond by the end of this week to a damning report into systematic dope cheating that could see the country’s athletes banned from the Olympics.

The report, by a World Anti-Doping Agency independent commission, published on Monday, called for Russian athletes to be suspended from all competitions, including the 2016 Olympic Games.

“I will seek an explanation for the allegations and the (International Association of Athletics Federations) council will then make a judgement,” Coe, the IAAF president, told journalists in a conference call.

“My instinct remains to encourage engagement not isolation, but the extent of what’s being said, I need to seek (IAAF) council support to have them (the Russian Athletics Federation) report back by the end of the week.

“The allegations are deeply shocking and alarming and I accept that the sport’s credibility is on the line.”

WADA also suggested the presence of doped athletes had “sabotaged” the 2012 Olympics in London.

“We have received it only today and are still absorbing it,” said Coe, a 1500m gold medallist for Britain at both the 1980 and 1984 Games, of the 320-page report.

“We will investigate and if we find failures in our governance we will act,” insisted Coe, who took over as president in August after the retirement of Lamine Diack, who was charged by French police last week with corruption over allegations he took bribes to cover up doping cases.

“Dick Pound (report author and former head of WADA) said in the report that this was not IAAF policy but rogue individuals who have inserted themselves into the organisation.

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“If there are issues we have to absorb then we will but the report did also say that this is not limited to track and field and not limited to one country.”

The IAAF can ban Russia, whom Pound accused of indulging in “state-sponsored” corruption, from its events, including the 2017 world championships in London.

All Olympic Games are run under the sporting authority of the International Olympic Committee.

But were Russia to be banned by the IAAF at the time of the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, their athletes would effectively be frozen out of track and field events — the centrepiece of any Olympics — in Brazil.

– Ready for criticism -In August, when still IAAF vice-president, and prior to his election as Diack’s successor, Coe labelled a report by Britain’s Sunday Times revealing the existence of an IAAF file detailing thousands of athletes with suspiciously high blood values, as a “declaration of war on my sport”.

On Monday, Coe reiterated he he had “no criticism” of investigative journalists who “kicked the tyres”.

“Those words I used referred to the selective use of data to besmirch the reputation of clean athletes,” Coe said. “It was never criticism of any news or media group.

“I actively welcomed the (Russian) investigation (by German broadcaster ARD) and made the point at the time that if they did not trust the organisation (IAAF), to hand over the information to WADA.”

Questions have been asked about Coe’s suitability to lead a clean-up of athletics given that, when Diack stepped down as IAAF president, he spoke of his “deep admiration” for his predecessor and said the Senegalese would always be the “spiritual president”.

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But Coe denied those words hampered him from taking effective action.

“That presumes that when I made those remarks, I had a list of allegations. I didn’t,” he said.

“I recognise that I am going to come in for some criticism. But as Dick Pound actually said, I share his sentiments, I’m completely shocked.”

Earlier, Pound said Coe could lead athletics’ fight against doping.

“We were taken unaware too — there were some nasty surprises,” Pound admitted.

“Seb Coe is someone who can grasp this, I hope — his reputation is at risk if he doesn’t.”

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