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Thursday, Nov 14, 2019

Now for the ‘fun bit’ - Sebastian Coe gets new term as IAAF chief

The former Olympic and world champion middle-distance runner became head of world athletics’ governing body in 2015 and receives his second mandate just two days before the World Athletics Championships open in Doha.

other-sports Updated: Sep 25, 2019 20:52 IST
Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India
Doha
A file photo of IAAF President Sebastian Coe.
A file photo of IAAF President Sebastian Coe.(REUTERS)
         

Britain’s Sebastian Coe was re-elected unopposed Wednesday as president of the IAAF for a second term following four years dominated by doping and the issue of gender.

The former Olympic and world champion middle-distance runner became head of world athletics’ governing body in 2015 and receives his second mandate just two days before the World Athletics Championships open in Doha.

“I genuinely am very pleased and proud of the way the sport has come together,” said Coe, 62, following his re-election.

“Two-hundred changes, the Athletics Integrity Unit -- no sport has a unit in the same space, it’s about malpractice, corruption.

“In making those achievements, I recognise we have had to detour from being able to really focus as hard as I would have liked in the early years around the field of play. We’re now in the position to really genuinely do that.”

Coe, who took over the reins during a period of turmoil in world athletics, was re-elected by unanimous vote of the 203 delegates attending the International Association of Athletics Federations’ Congress in Doha.

Four years ago the IAAF was in chaos as a result of far-reaching corruption allegations.

They included damaging charges of links between outgoing president Lamine Diack, his influential son Papa Massata, and a Russian cover-up of a state-sponsored doping conspiracy.

- ‘The fun bit’ -

During his first term, Coe set up the independent Athletics Integrity Unit which serves as watchdog dedicated to cleaning up corruption in the sport.

“It’s been a tough four years, the first two were the reforms -- the second two years were really making sure they were implemented,” he said.

“(We) got here pretty much implementing everything we said we’d do.

“I want the next four years to be the fun bit... I want the sport to grow.” Coe is notably credited with tackling the issue of state-sponsored Russian doping, with the IAAF maintaining a tough stance and banning Russia from competition since November 2015.

Gender has also been a complex issue, with South African runner Caster Semenya spearheading the fight against IAAF rules on “hyperandrogenic” competitors whose significance goes beyond the boundaries of the sport.

The new regulations came into force on May 8 and oblige women with higher than normal male hormone levels to artificially lower their testosterone to run at some distances.

Semenya, the best-known athlete to fall foul of the rules, has refused to take the medication and consequently will not take part in Doha.

Semenya initially won a legal battle, enabling her to compete in 800m races, before a Swiss court overruled the decision.

Coe said “the issue of transgender more generally is going to be dominating, not just athletics, but all sports”.

Two female Kenyan middle-distance runners have been dropped from the team for Doha due to high levels of testosterone.

Ximena Restrepo, a former sprinter from Colombia, was elected as an IAAF vice-president at the congress, the first time the body has elevated a woman to the position.

“It’s a great moment for me and my country,” she said.

“I would like to thank you Seb. Because of the changes you’ve done to the constitution, women are having more opportunities than before.”