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Seb Coe: Athletics at a crossroads

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Sebastian Coe has admitted that athletics is at a “crossroads” and faces an uncertain future if it cannot win back people’s trust following allegations of extensive doping and widespread corruption.

Addressing yesterday’s (2 December) Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) president said that he was “absolutely focused” on cleaning up athletics following the publication of a World Anti-Doping Agency report that uncovered state-sponsored doping in Russia.

It was followed by news that 26 Italian athletes, including Olympic 2012 bronze medallist Fabrizio Donato, may face two-year bans for allegedly failing to provide doping samples following a National Anti-Doping Organisation investigation in Trento, Italy.

Coe, who was elected in August, said that he had the experience and “support of the sport” to put systems in place to counter drug abuse and restore the trust of the public.

“If we don’t do that, there are no tomorrows for my sport,” he said.

The former London 2012 chair was accused of “lacking curiosity” by a band of MPs, led by committee chair Jesse Norman, in the context of the arrests of his predecessor Lamine Diack, the former IAAF anti-doping director Gabriel Dollé and legal advisor Habib Cissé.

Diack is currently being investigated for allegedly accepting money to help Russian athletes who failed drug tests to swerve suspensions. Coe claimed that he had no suspicions of Diack, whom he once labelled athletic’s “spiritual leader”, throughout his eight years a vice-president.

Coe refuted the accusation that the IAAF was institutionally corrupt, highlighting the fact that allegations had only been made against a “handful” of employees “who are now the subject of some abhorrent criminal allegations”.

He was also forced to defend his association with giant sportswear firm Nike, with which he cut ties last week following criticism over his £100,000 ($149,348, €141,433) per year ambassadorial role.

Asked to comment on a leaked email correspondence between himself and senior Nike executives, in which he appeared to discuss Eugene’s (where Nike is based) bid for the 2021 World Athletics Championships, Coe said: “I was asked a question, I gave a view that Eugene had to get back into the competition and get back into the next bid cycle.

“It was not uniquely a Nike question. It was being asked across the whole sport.”

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Sebastian Coe has admitted that athletics is at a “crossroads” and faces an uncertain future if it cannot win back people’s trust following allegations of extensive doping and widespread corruption.
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Coe became the IAAF's president in August 2015
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