The IAAF’s journey to trust
IT’S BEEN just over a year since IAAF president Sebastian Coe took charge of what had become the hottest seat in international sports administration.
With bullets still swirling from a massive corruption and doping scandal, and very little confidence left in an organisation responsible for managing the affairs of global track and field, Coe, who himself landed under the microscope, believes they have already taken key steps towards securing a positive future for the sport and is convinced that they have just the thing needed to remove the veil of suspicion that has dogged athletics for years.
In an exclusive sit-down with The Gleaner, the IAAF president admitted the damaging effects of the wide-net doping and corruption scandals but is certain that the worst is behind them as he looks to guide the organisation, and the sport, into a new age of transparency and trust.
The blueprint, he believes, is highlighted by a 15-point governance-reform package, which is being outlined to the various member federations ahead of a December vote for implementation.
The plan, among other things, speaks to a devolution of presidential power; the implementation of an independent integrity unit that will manage doping and non-doping integrity issues; cutting the number of vice-presidents from four to two – one from each gender; a new financial structure, including external audits and transparency standards; as well as structural changes to the management set-up.
“It has been a difficult year. There have been a lot of challenges, but we have ended the year stronger than we started it. Rio (Olympics) was, in terms of performance for track and field, top draw, in large part courtesy of Jamaica, and I say that with massive respect,” Coe said.
“We do end up stronger than we have started the season despite the twin challenge of maintaining all the responsibilities that the IAAF has had; and people tend to forget that even during the difficult moments, we still had to do World Championships,” Coe noted in reference to the World Indoor Championships in Portland; the World Half Marathon Championships; the World Race Walk Cup, which, like the World Under-20 Championship, was removed from Russia; and, of course, the work around the Olympic Games.
Nonetheless, Coe believes that despite the issues, there remains a strong appetite for track and field in the global space and believes the charted course, or reform, will go a long way in building on this and pushing track and field from perhaps its lowest position to among the top four sports in the world.
“We have sorely tested, as a sport in some key areas, the trust of the spectators, the trust of clean athletes, the trust of the media, and the trust of our sponsors. There is every evidence that they are taking comfort in the fact that as a sport, we recognise that we need to change,” added Coe.
“The reform is based on, for me, four principles. Firstly, returning trust. Secondly, it is to ensure that we are a sport that is responsible, responsive, and accountable; that everybody understands what their role and responsibility is in the sport. At the IAAF, we understand that we are there at the service of the member federations. We have to give the member federations the empowerment to deliver the sport that we need them to deliver to help us globalise. Then we need to be energetic in the way that we evolve and never forgetting all the time that we are appealing to young people. And that is very important because there are many competing experiences out there that we need to recognise,” Coe outlined.
“Sport is our activity, but our business is entertainment. Thankfully, we have the biggest entertainer in the world at the moment in Usain Bolt, and that makes life a little easier, and then finally, it’s about transformation.”
The president singled out the delivery of the independent integrity unit and the proposed changes to anti-doping management as a vastly important element to the package.
This new system will not only see the organisation doubling its testing pool of athletes from the top 10 ranked in each discipline to the top 20, but will also centralise the result management with member federations no longer being responsible for sanctioning.
“... Never again will we have a potential conflict, where a federation can slow down a process or decide to get involved in a way that we wouldn’t want, and that is very important to me. So there will be an independent disciplinary tribunal,” Coe further explained.
Coe yesterday arrived in Santa Domingo, the Dominican Republic for a meeting with NACAC officials.