Monaco: Sebastian Coe has vowed to guide the IAAF “back to trust” after a series of corruption and doping scandals that has seen global athletics crash into its darkest ever days.
Speaking after an IAAF Council meeting, Coe stepped down from his lucrative ambassadorial role for Nike over what some people dubbed as a conflict of interest, notably over the award of the 2021 world championships to Eugene, located in the same Oregan state as the giant US sportswear company.
“The journey back to trust is not a scientific one, there’s is no certainty in this,” said Coe.
“But it does have to start with making sure that we have an organisation that is fit for purpose and can deliver the services that it needs to, and can maintain and rebuild the reputation that clearly has been hit very hard in the last few weeks.”
Coe’s alleged conflict of interest to one side, his predecessor Lamine Diack is under French police investigation for allegedly having accepted more than one million euros in bribes to allow athletes compete despite them having tested positive for banned substances.
In the wake of those shocking revelations, the IAAF then acted on a bombshell report by an independent commission of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) by banning Russia from all international competition because of what it called systematic state-sponsored doping of its athletes.
Coe, a two-time Olympic 1500m gold medallist for Britain, was in no doubt that the transformation of the IAAF and athletics, the Olympic’s main sport, would take some time.
“How long that will take I don’t know, but it will in total outsee my mandate,” the 59-year-old said.
“One of the prevailing sentiments around the council table was there was not a single person in that room who did not remotely underestimate the challenges we face in addressing the failures and rebuilding trust in our sport.”
When Coe took power from the disgraced Diack in August, he beat out Sergey Bubka on a zero-tolerance stance on doping that was the backbone of rebuilding trust.
Coe has the support of the IAAF Council, the 26-strong body that governs world track and field.
Stephanie Hightower, president of the US track and field federation, said Coe had their full support, with the accent on winning back not only fans but athletes themselves.
“What a time to join the IAAF Council!” Hightower said after just her second outing in her role.
“Not one of my colleagues underestimates the challenges that our sport faces today.
“We know we have to rebuild trust and confidence, but not only with our fans but more importantly with our athletes and this is going to be a long journey.
“But we also need to show our athletes that we are fully serious about supporting clean athletes and we will not tolerate any cheating at any level.”
Hightower added: “We also recognise that the whole system has failed our athletes, the entire system, not just in Russia but around the world and so we need to better understand the triggers and the flags that will enable us to identify problems early and then fix them sooner.
“All my council members are determined to repair the failures and rebuild trust among athletes and fans.
“We have been encouraged that Seb has proposed around reviewing operations, structure, processes and governance.”
With Coe having ceded his Nike role, at the cost of 100,000 (142,000 euros) per year, there were calls for his role as IAAF president to be properly salaried.
“The athletes want someone at the top to be paid to deliver professional services for the sport,” said former Namibian sprinter Frank Fredericks, now head of the IAAF athletes commission.
“Especially considering what Seb has given up.”
Coe concluded: “The current noise level around this ambassadorial role is not good for the IAAF and it is not good for Nike, and frankly it is a distraction to the 18-hour days I and our teams are working to steady the ship.”