Athletics NZ give support to Sebastain Coe

International Association of Athletics Federations President Sebastian Coe. Photo / AP.
International Association of Athletics Federations President Sebastian Coe. Photo / AP.

Athletics New Zealand have supported Sebastian Coe over the latest report on the anti-doping issues and the Russian Athletics Federation, saying he is the best person to lead the IAAF.

A World Anti-Doping Agency report released today said track and field's governing body, the IAAF, was corrupted from the inside by a "powerful rogue group" led by its president, and they conspired to extort athletes and allow doping Russians to continue competing.

Other IAAF leaders were at fault, too, the WADA panel's damning report said. They must have known of the nepotism that allowed Lamine Diack to turn the International Association of Athletics Federations into a personal fiefdom during his 16-year reign as president, it said.

The report also questioned whether alleged corruption under Diack went beyond extorting doped athletes and infected other areas of IAAF business.

It made further uncomfortable reading for Sebastian Coe, the British middle-distance running great who took over from Diack in August.

Coe was in the audience as former WADA president Dick Pound, who wrote the report, sifted through the grim findings and asserted that the IAAF remains an organisation in denial.

"The corruption was embedded in the organization. It cannot be ignored or dismissed as attributable to the odd renegade acting on its own," the report said.

Coe is not accused of corrupt wrongdoing. But, as an IAAF vice president under Diack, he was part of its Council, its oversight body, that took a hammering from the investigators' report.

Athletics New Zealand said they were disappointed at the allegations of corruption at the highest level in the IAAF around anti-doping issues and the Russian Athletics Federation due to the significant lapse in governance that allowed this to happen.

"It is alarming [if the alleged corruption is proven] that a small group of individuals in powerful positions within the IAAF were abetting and covering up doping for their own financial gain," Athletics NZ chief executive Linda Hamersley said.

"Athletics NZ first supported Lord Coe during his presidential campaign, and we still believe he is the best person to lead the IAAF out of this situation to regain the reputation, credibility and integrity the sport needs and we continue to support him."

Pound also endorsed Coe at the press conference, saying, "I think it's a fabulous responsibility for the IAAF to seize this opportunity and, under strong leadership, to move forward. There's an enormous amount of reputational recovery that needs to occur here and I can't think of anyone better than Lord Coe to lead that."

When Coe took over the presidency in August, he was lavish in his praise of Diack. The allegations that have since emerged became an increasing source of embarrassment to Coe.

But Pound said he believes Coe had "not the faintest idea of the extent" of Diack's alleged corruption when he took power.

Pound's first report, issued in November, detailed a state-sponsored doping program in Russia involving corruption and cover-ups. That led the IAAF to suspend Russia's track and field federation, leaving its athletes in danger of missing this year's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

The IAAF announced on January 5 a number of initiatives to prevent this happening again and Athletics NZ strongly urged the adoption of the remaining recommendations contained in the report to ensure that the situation didn't happen again and to regain trust in the sport.

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