LONDON: Lord Sebastian Coe has sought to shed light on the limits of the ability of the IAAF Council to hold presidential predecessor Lamine Diack to account.
Coe succeeded the veteran Senegalese at the head of the International Associations of Athletics Federation last August before the publication of credibility-wrecking revelations of a massive doping cover-up.
Last Thursday Dick Pound, the senior IOC member who led an inquiry on behalf of the World Anti-Doping Agency, reported that the IAAF Council members “must have known” about the depth of the crisis over Russian misconduct.
Coe, interviewed on BBC Radio Five’s Sportsweek today, said: “The council did know about the escalating number of positive tests. They were a matter of public knowledge, particularly around the blood passport system, and we did ask questions.
“The weakness in the system was not our inability to ask questions but whether or not the answers could be verified.
“You are told conversations are taking place with the Russian federation and with WADA and with the Russian Ministry of Sport about numbers as high as they were . . . but were we in a position to know they were being followed up? No we weren’t.
“We would know as a council that sanctions were being contested at the Court of Arbitration for Sport by a member federation [but] we would not know every individual anomalous reading.”
Coe said he drew comfort, for all the Pound panel’s criticism, that “our systems were not chronically broken.” But he conceded: “People got into the system who should not have been able to do what they did.
“The council did ask questions about the escalating number of tests. Damage has been done to our sport by a relatively small number of nations and we were aware that Russia was becoming an escalating problem.
“But did I know that people had inserted themselves in the system who should not have done? No.”
Two weeks ago IAAF marketing consuiltant Papa Massata Diack (a son of Lamine Diack) and treasurer Valentin Balakhnichev (who was also head of the Russian athletics federation) were banned for life by an IAAF ethics panel for blackmailing the distance runner Liliya Shobukhova.
Gabriel Dolle, formerly the IAAF’s anti-doping director, was banned for five years while Lamine Diack is under criminal investigation in France for bribery and corruption.
Coe said he had not spoken with Lamine Diack since the crisis exploded and he was still awaiting further revelations from the French prosecutors’ investigation.
He accepted that the image of track and field athletics had suffered serious damage and thought restoring its reputation would certainly take beyond his immediate four-year term of office.
** Dmitry Shlyakhtin has been elected interim president of the Russian athletics federation (ARAF) in place of Valentin Balakhnichev who stepped down in February. New elections will be held after the Rio Olympic Games.
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