LONDON (Reuters) – Sebastian Coe, the head of athletics’ crisis-hit governing body, says trust in the sport may not return until “way beyond” his four-year term as president of the IAAF.
An independent commission of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said in the second part of a damning report on Thursday that “corruption was embedded” at the International Association of Athletics Federations.
The report, whose first part was published in November, said Coe’s predecessor, Lamine Diack, ran a clique that covered up organised doping and blackmailed athletes while senior officials looked the other way.
“Trust is not going to come over night, it is not as if you make five changes and trust will follow in two weeks’ time,” Coe, who came out from the report relatively unscathed, told the BBC on Sunday.
“It may be the case that trust does not return until way beyond my term in office.”
The WADA report’s co-author Dick Pound said he thought Coe was the best man to reform the sport.
The Briton, a double Olympic 1500 metres champion who was elected president in August, said he took some comfort that the report found that the IAAF’s systems were not chronically broken and that officials were not “asleep on the job”.
He said he understood that people would be sceptical that the IAAF’s council, of which he had been a member since 2003, did not know about doping cover-ups, and added that his own focus had been “limited” due to his other commitments.
“For 10 or 11 years, I was extremely busy in bidding or delivering a London Games,” he said. “I didn’t have the advantage of having a single focus on athletics…
“With all due respect, when corrupt behaviour takes place it’s rare for that to be shared with co workers.”
Russia were banned from the sport indefinitely following the first part of the WADA report, which found a “deeply rooted culture of cheating” in Russian athletics.
Coe said he had become aware that Russia was an “escalating problem” prior to the WADA report and added that they would only return to international competition “when we think they are in a position to deliver safe and secure systems to their athletes and not a moment before”.
When asked if they would return in time for the Rio Olympics in August, he said: “We’re not saying that — let’s see where we get to before we put an artificial time limit on it.”
(Reporting by Toby Davis; editing by Martyn Herman)