International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) President Sebastian Coe said on Thursday (5 May) that his organisation needs to regain the trust of clean athletes.
The sport has been rocked by allegations of corruption and bribery, with fans and sponsors deserting track and field.
Athletics, the showpiece of the Olympic Games, was stunned last year when Russia was suspended from the sport after a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) investigation showed a state-sponsored doping programme.
An independent WADA commission also said “corruption was embedded” at the IAAF under former president Lamine Diack who ran a clique that covered up organised doping and blackmailed athletes while senior officials looked the other way.
Senegal’s Diack is under formal investigation in France on suspicion of corruption and money-laundering linked to concealing positive drug tests.
Speaking ahead of the opening Diamond League meeting of the season in Doha, Qatar on Friday, Coe said the IAAF had to get back the trust of the athletes to attract people into the sport.
“The most important client group we need to regain the trust of is the clean athletes,” the Briton said.
“These are the people I wake up each day trying to create systems that are safe and secure and allow them to know when they’re lining up on the track they’re lining up against athletes that are clean, and that the years and years of effort that they’ve put in, the sacrifices that their families and their coaches made in order for them to do that, is not in any way reduced.
“This is an important year and the reforms that are underway now within the organisation are testament to that.”
Qatar was controversially awarded the right to host the soccer World Cup in 2022, when asked if the country could host a summer Olympic Games Coe did not rule out the possibility, stressing the importance of taking sport to new territories.
“If we are going to globalise sport, that we have consistently turned up to conferences around the world for as long as I’ve been involved in sports administration, and talked about globalising and talking about sport to impact and imprint on the lives of young people, then we have to make sure that we are, where possible, giving countries that want to stage these events, the opportunity to do exactly what for the last 30 or 40 years been encouraging them to do,” he said.
“It’s not simply about infrastructure, it’s not simply about the commercial considerations, these are of course important, athlete welfare plays a large part in all that.
“So there are an amalgam of issues that always need to be addressed but I think the overriding issue for me is always, where possible, to allow the sport in its many many manifestations and particularly track and field, to build a global base.”