Golden boy Coe to bat­tle through sleep­less nights

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

MONACO: Se­bas­tian Coe likened win­ning the IAAF pres­i­dency to the joy­ous birth of his four chil­dren. His open­ing steps in track and field’s top job could eas­ily be de­scribed as the equiv­a­lent of a month of sleep­less nights run­ning af­ter frac­tious ba­bies. It has been noth­ing but a blunt and chal­leng­ing in­tro­duc­tion to the va­garies of top-level sport ad­min­is­tra­tion for Coe, work­ing 18 hours a day in a firefight for track and field. The 59-year-old Bri­ton was thrust fully into the un­for­giv­ing spot­light to deal with dop­ing in Rus­sia, al­le­ga­tions of sys­temic cor­rup­tion against the man from whom he took over, Lamine Di­ack, as well as claims of con­flict of in­ter­est be­cause of his lu­cra­tive am­bas­sado­rial role with US sports­wear gi­ant Nike.

Fol­low­ing the rev­e­la­tions sur­round­ing Di­ack, the World Anti-Dop­ing Agency’s in­de­pen­dent com­mis­sion pro­duced a bomb­shell re­port with ev­i­dence of state-spon­sored dop­ing in Rus­sia. Coe, who has al­ways been out­spo­ken against dop­ing and vowed a “zero tol­er­ance” when he was named pres­i­dent, was quick to act, tem­po­rar­ily ban­ning Rus­sia. The Bri­ton on Thurs­day also stepped down from his Nike role, at the cost of £100,000 a year, and vowed he was the man to turn around track and field. WADA’s in­de­pen­dent com­mis­sion re­port’s co-au­thor Dick Pound, a for­mer WADA pres­i­dent, and IOC pres­i­dent Thomas Bach have both de­fended Coe as the man to lead ath­let­ics out of its dark­est hour.

With Coe seem­ingly never out of the crosshairs of an ever-de­mand­ing Bri­tish press, the IAAF has taken to pub­lish­ing daily “fre­quently asked ques­tions” of the press in a “con­tin­ued ef­fort to be as trans­par­ent as pos­si­ble and to en­sure that the pub­lic have the same ac­cess to the in­for­ma­tion that the IAAF pro­vides the me­dia”. Upon be­ing elected IAAF pres­i­dent in Au­gust, hav­ing beaten Ukrainian pole-vault great Sergey Bubka 115-92 in a tight vote, Coe pledged to main­tain “the very high­est level of vig­i­lance” with re­gard to dop­ing.

With WADA hav­ing ac­cused the IAAF of be­ing “in­ex­pli­ca­bly lax” in their ap­proach to dop­ing, at a time when Coe was the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s vice-pres­i­dent, they are words that have quickly come back to haunt him. And they are not the only ones. Coe de­scribed Di­ack as his “spir­i­tual leader”, only for the 82-year-old Sene­galese to be ar­rested by French po­lice over claims he took 1 mil­lion eu­ros ($1.1 mil­lion) in bribes to cover up pos­i­tive drug tests. When me­dia re­ports emerged that the IAAF had turned a blind eye to hun­dreds of sus­pi­cious blood tests, Coe very ill-ad­vis­edly branded the claims a “dec­la­ra­tion of war” on ath­let­ics.

To date, Coe has gen­er­ally avoided op­pro­brium over his spell as the chair­man of FIFA’s ethics com­mis­sion, de­spite the avalanche of cor­rup­tion ac­cu­sa­tions that has tum­bled down upon world foot­ball’s gov­ern­ing body in the years since he left. But he has done well to sever his ties with Nike, for whom he was a global am­bas­sador, in light of the Amer­i­can sport gi­ant’s con­tin­ued back­ing of drug cheat Justin Gatlin and al­le­ga­tions of dop­ing lev­eled at Nike’s Ore­gon Project run­ning camp in a re­cent BBC doc­u­men­tary. The day-to-day crises are all a far cry from his days as the poster boy of Bri­tish ath­let­ics dur­ing the 1980s, when his fierce ri­valry with coun­try­man Steve Ovett made him one of the most well-known fig­ures in the sport.

The ar­tic­u­late Coe won Olympic gold in the 1500m at the 1980 and 1984 Olympics, as well as two sil­ver medals in the 800m, and set eight out­door and three in­door world records in mid­dle-dis­tance track events. His achieve­ments in pol­i­tics and sports ad­min­is­tra­tion have been ev­ery bit as stel­lar, with high­lights in­clud­ing a five-year stint in Bri­tain’s par­lia­ment and a stun­ning suc­cess as head of the 2012 Lon­don Olympics. It means that for all his cur­rent tribu­la­tions, he con­tin­ues to enjoy strong sup­port from within the ath­let­ics com­mu­nity, but his rep­u­ta­tion will now hang on his abil­ity to see through the de­ci­sive ac­tion he seems in­tent on in­sti­gat­ing. — AFP

In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Ath­let­ics Fed­er­a­tions (IAAF) Pres­i­dent Se­bas­tian Coe

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