By Steve Keating
DOHA (Reuters) – After a turbulent four years, Sebastian Coe hopes his second term as head of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) will be the “fun bit” but first he still has to grapple with the continuing Russian doping scandal.
Before Coe was re-elected as president unopposed on Wednesday, the IAAF congress voted overwhelmingly (164-30) not to reinstate Russia over reports that anti-doping data from a tainted Moscow laboratory had been tampered with before being handed over to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
Russia’s athletics federation (RUSAF) was originally suspended in November 2015 after a report commissioned by WADA found evidence of widespread doping in the sport.
Like Coe’s unopposed selection as president, the Russian decision was not a surprise with the IAAF having announced on Monday that Russia will miss the world athletics championships for the second time in succession.
Coe said 30 Russians with Authorised Neutral Athletes (ANA) status will compete in Doha and is confident they will be clean but noted that the system now needs to be under review following the new revelations.
“We, to the best of our ability, are confident that those 30 athletes here (are clean),” said Coe. “They have been through the AIU (Athletic Integrity Unit) system, they have been through the doping review board, which we set up to individually look at these cases.
“We are really satisfied that is a safe and secure system.
“I always wanted to find a navigable route through that separated the clean athlete from the tainted system.
“This now has to be under review.”
Despite a long list of challenges, Coe’s first four-year term got a positive review if Wednesday’s vote is any reflection with all 203 members voting for the re-election of the two-time Olympic gold medallist.
Coe acknowledged there is more work ahead but hopes much of it will deal with the on field product rather than Russia, allegations of corruption regarding his predecessor Lamine Diack and other issues that have detracted from the action.
“It’s been a tough four years there is no point in being naive or coy about that,” said Coe ahead of the world championships which open on Friday.
“I am pleased to have gotten here having implemented everything we said we would do and I want the next four years to be the fun bit really.
“I hope in four years time, when we are sitting here, we are looking back at the same level of delivery that we’ve had in the first four years but we are actually focused on the field of play.”
While progress has been plodding in ridding the sport of drug cheats, the IAAF took a step forward in gender equality on Wednesday voting in its first female vice-president and placing six women to the 13 member council.
Sprinter Ximena Restrepo, who won Colombia’s first Olympic medal in athletics at the 1992 Barcelona Summer Games taking the bronze in the 400 metres, made history by becoming the first woman elected a IAAF vice-president.
“It’s a great moment for me and country,” said Restrepo. “I really think that we the women are now having more opportunities than we had before, now we seven women on council and that is a big number and I am very happy about that.”
Those numbers are also set to rise with Coe promising a gender balance 50/50 split in all IAAF governance structures by 2027.
“We did create a gender leadership task force and we created it because we fundamentally believe the sport was out of kilter,” said Coe. “It is important our sport always looks like the world we live in.
“Having gotten more women on to the council today than we were even mandated to do I think is a huge and important step forward.”
(Editing by Christian Radnedge)