Athletics Athletics

Seb Coe admits concerns over WADA Rio findings

Sebastian Coe took the helm at the IAAF in 2015 © AFP/File / Fabrice Coffrini

Doha, Qatar, Oct 28 – World athletics boss Sebastian Coe admitted on Friday that reports from the World Anti-Doping Agency alleging serious drug testing failings at the Rio Olympics made for “uncomfortable reading”.

But speaking in Qatar — where he received backing from the heads of the Asian Athletics Association (AAA) for his IAAF reform agenda, including drug testing changes — Coe said it was right the failings were made public.

“The only thing I would say is I welcome reports like that, sometimes they are uncomfortable reading, but I would rather have those sorts of observations,” said the president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

Although Coe added that he had not seen the report himself yet, the former middle-distance runner said such “intelligence” was vital so athletics can catch drug cheats.

The report, by independent observers sent to the Games by WADA and published on Thursday, uncovered “serious logistical failings” in Olympics’ anti-doping efforts.

It found cases where athletes targeted for testing “could not be found”, and a lack of adequately trained anti-doping personnel.

Coe is pushing for an independent drugs testing regime as part of his overhaul of world athletics at an IAAF extraordinary congress on December 3.

Russian athletes were banned from the Rio Olympics after Moscow was accused of state-organised doping © AFP/File / Franck Fife

He is proposing an “independent Athletics Integrity Unit”, which will be responsible for doping matters, taking powers away from national associations.

“The testing itself is independent,” he said.

“I think where we have fallen foul is around results management. That all too often has had national interest involved.”

He added that he “cared little” for the rights of cheating athletes.

“We cannot survive as a sport unless clean athletes absolutely feel that they have the full force of a federation behind their legitimate attempts to be the best they can possibly be.

– Coe gets backing –

“That’s non-negotiable.”

Other mooted reforms include a restructuring of the IAAF council, the organisation’s sports decision-making body, so that it has 50 per cent female membership, new checks and balances on the president, and new vetting procedures on individuals.

The proposed changes need a two-thirds’ majority to be passed at December’s vote.

They have been brought about by the scandal which has engulfed athletics in recent times.

Coe’s disgraced predecessor Lamine Diack faces corruption charges in France, among them that he accepted bribes to cover up doping cases in Russia.

The IAAF then enforced a ban on Russian athletes in international competition after a WADA report unveiled systematic state-sponsored doping.

The double Olympic champion is on a global tour of athletics associations in an attempt to drum up support for his reform agenda – and he got the backing of the AAA on Friday

“We are fully supportive of the president,” said Dahlan Al-Hamad, head of the AAA.

“There are some issues which we will first discuss, I am sure that these issues will be resolved.”

It was Coe’s first visit to Doha since he was cleared by the IAAF ethics board over claims he had discussed rumours that Qatar had tried to bribe officials to secure the 2017 world athletics championships.

Coe denied having ever such discussions and said Friday he had nothing more to say following the decision.

Qatar will host the 2019 world championships.