A scathing report on Russia’s athletics drug testing interference and cover-up practices, has International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) president Sebastian Coe in damage control mode.
As commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), its former president Dick Pound issued an independent 323-page dissection of his team’s substantiated allegations on Monday. This shocking portrayal of Russian drug testing protocol corruption and IAAF oversight lapses, corroborates the German ARD and the London Sunday Times newspaper findings published in the past year. In this report’s fall-out, Pound said, “For the 2016 Olympics our recommendation is that the Russian Federation is suspended.”
Sebastian Coe, deeply entrenched within the IAAF, has long held critical leadership positions over the last 12 years – leading up to being elected as president in August. During his tenure, he served most recently as the vice-president, dutifully supporting the former IAAF head Lamine Diack, who hails from Senegal.
After 16 years at the helm, the retiring Diack is now being investigated for accepting bribes that permitted Russian athletes to compete in events inclusive of the 2012 London Olympics. He and two former IAAF staffers were temporarily detained in France and charged with corruption.
Coe’s stellar track and field career and his past advocacy for stronger punishments against drug cheaters conceivably would position him as a fervent watchdog over doping corruption and fair play principles in athletics. Yet, his track record of challenging previous corruption findings and praising Diack has now forced him to precariously backpedal.
When past published studies alleging crookedness by Russia, Kenya, and other countries were released, he characterized these as “a war against my sport.” Further, he has long extolled the 82-year-old Diack with such accolades as demonstrating “shrewd stewardship, unflinching support and wise counsel.”
When confronted with the breadth of findings within the commissioned report, Coe said in an AP interview, “I’m well aware I’m going to come into some criticism for those remarks. It does pre-suppose I had a list of allegations in front of me. I didn’t. Should we have known more? Possibly.”
This self-deprecating, half-apology either smacks of trust that has been irrevocably breached, or as a harbinger of hope for widespread, corrective change. “I will have a raft of reforms in place and ready for the approval of the council in two weeks’ time,” he said. “Everything is under review. I’m more determined than ever to create a sport that is accountable, responsible and responsive.”