Sebastian Coe – the former British middle-distance star who defeated Ukrainian former pole vaulter Sergey Bubka by a wide margin of 23 votes at the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Congress that elected a new leadership midweek – had a hard time fielding questions during the post-election conference midweek.
The USA’s ace sprinter, Justin Gatlin, was the media’s key subject.
He is among the athletes whose doping violations have contributed to the dented image of athletics. Gatlin has recorded the fastest time over the 100m and 200m this year.
He is at the IAAF World Championships despite having been twice banned for doping, and is a threat to world sprint champion Usain Bolt in the Jamaican’s bid to defend his titles.
Coe said anti-doping control was among the key policies he would implement in the first phase of his presidency, reiterating what he had preached in his election manifesto.
Coe (58) – credited for the success of the Olympic Games in London in 2012 – has arrived at the top amid ongoing allegations of widespread doping in the sport.
He has defended the IAAF’s record on doping since the leak of blood-test data to the media, but he sang a different tune this week, saying that dealing with drug cheats was paramount for him.
Outlining his plans for athletics, the charismatic 2012 Olympics chairperson said his priorities would be to:
. Move towards an external, fully independent anti-doping agency to deal with doping violations;
. Create an Olympic athletics dividend that would provide a minimum of $100 000 (R1.25 million) of additional funding – over a four-year period – to each of the 214 athletics member federations. He said the money would come from the grant athletics received from the International Olympic Committee;
. Establish a more harmonised world athletics calendar;
. Improve day-to-day communications and relationships with member federations; and
. Improve commercial support to the federations.
Many African IAAF federations were, however, unhappy that Wednesday’s voting results did not go in their favour, sources told City Press this week.
Four African representatives who attended the elective congress told City Press Bubka had relied on Africa, South America and Asia among the continents whose countries had promised their vote.
“Coe is strong on anticorruption, and some would not like it,” said one official who asked not to be named, also asking for discreteness about the identity of his federation.
“Most would be disappointed because [Bubka] of course made promises to Africa before the polls,” added another source, who also requested anonymity.
This was in contrast to the bold stance of Ghana Athletics, which publicly announced its support for Coe and described him as a man of integrity equipped with “knowledge, experience, vision and the temperament necessary to lead our global organisation forward”.
Although diplomatic in his response, Bolt said at his sponsors’ conference this week that “as long as [Coe] is good for the sport, I’m happy that he is elected – we’ll see what happens in the future”.
The former Olympic champion will officially take over from outgoing president Lamine Diack after the global track and field championships in Beijing.