Lord Coe determined to root out corruption as doping scandal engulfs athletics

London 2012 chairman Lord Coe holds aloft the Olympic Flame
London 2012 chairman Lord Coe holds aloft the Olympic Flame

Sheffield’s Lord Coe has stressed his determination to “rebuild and repair” athletics by leading the sport through the “dark days” of the crisis currently engulfing it.

Earlier this week French police revealed former International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) president Lamine Diack - who Coe succeeded in August - was being investigated over an alleged payment of more than one million euros to cover up doping offences by Russian athletes.

It then emerged the IAAF ethics commission had brought disciplinary charges against four men, including the son of Diack and the former head of its anti-doping department.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) will publish its independent report into allegations of widespread doping among Russian athletes on Monday.

Asked on Sunday for his reaction to the Diack situation, Coe told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Sportsweek programme: “Clear shock, a great deal of anger and a lot of sadness.

“These are dark days for our sport but I’m more determined than ever to rebuild the trust in our sport. It is not going to be a short journey.

“The day after I got elected, I started a massive review. Understandably, in the light of the allegations that have been made, that review has been accelerated and I am determined to rebuild and repair the sport with my colleagues.

“But this is a long road to redemption.”

Coe, who served as IAAF vice-president prior to his current role, insisted he had not been aware of any allegations against Diack until this week’s news.

“That was the first that I had heard of them and I think that is almost certainly the case for virtually everybody in our sport,” Coe said.

He was also asked if he regretted referring to Diack as the sport’s “spiritual” leader when he succeeded him.

“I’m well aware I’m going to come in for criticism for those remarks,” Coe said.

“It does presume I had a list of allegations in front of me at that moment, and I didn’t.

“Should we, in hindsight, have known more? Yes, probably we should have done - that is why I have accelerated these reforms at breakneck pace this week.”

Richard McLaren, one of the authors of the independent report being published on Monday, has been quoted as saying that the publication will be “a real game-changer for sport” and that it will demonstrate “a whole different scale of corruption” even compared to the FIFA scandal.

When it was put to WADA president Sir Craig Reedie on Sportsweek that the report was likely to cause shock, he said: “I think there’s been a great deal of speculation.

“I think it will be very robust in terms of what it was set up to do, which was to examine serious breaches of doping rules in Russia, and the anti-doping community and sport should be ready for that.”

There has been talk of the possibility of Russia being thrown out of the sport, and Coe said on that matter on Sunday: “I’ve never said never, but my instinct here is engagement rather than isolation.

“If we want change, and this is not just about processes and procedure, it is cultural.

“We need a generation of athletes and coaches who believe it is absolutely possible to reach the pinnacle of our sport and do it with integrity, as clean athletes.

“I believe isolation is not the answer, and that engagement is a much better way to get internal change. But I am not saying, and never have said, never.”

Coe said he did not know but that it “may well” prove to be the case that nations other than Russia were involved in the situation.

He added: “Will we ever have a clean sport? No.

“There will always be people in any walk of life who will step beyond the moral boundaries.

“It is our responsibility to make sure we have the right systems in place - and the right people in the organisation upholding those systems.”

Coe also said he would like to see life bans for doping athletes, but added: “The legal brains have addressed this time after time and looked at this, and we have failed to win that argument.”