There are many who have been disappointed with the start made by Lord Coe as the new President of World athletics body the IAAF. Yet should we be surprised, after all this is a man who served time as a politician?
Coe it appears has opted to accept the status quo rather than to embrace the opportunity for change. The chance to cleanse the sport in a spirit of transparency and co-operation. One journalist described him as a “machine politician operating with a wilfully limited field of vision.” Sadly a trait we see in many sports administrators in the modern era.
Part of Coe’s campaign for the presidency was based on his long held stance of zero tolerance of doping; yet this stance is completely undermined by the constant return of athletes who have tested positive and served short term suspensions for that very offence. Coe promised to set up a Values Commission, using Olympic Champion sprinter Michael Johnson. The brief being to bring integrity to an expected code of conduct in Athletics.
Coe has always been a man of integrity. He was, despite the word being over-used, a great athlete, a double Olympic Champion. He, also as the figurehead of London2012 exuded grace, leadership and again that word, integrity.
Coe claims he was never a natural politician. It was assumed he would one day hold a senior position in the Conservative cabinet and possibly even run for the leadership, yet after 12 years in office it never happened.
Some wonder if we are now seeing the reason why. Coe Chairs a sports marketing consultancy, yet has been reported as failing to see that FIFAs credibility has been damaged beyond repair. He for some reason believes that reform can be driven from within.
He has also been quoted as stating that ‘in the West we have to confront an ethical dilemma in dealing with systems where bribery is endemic.’ What this comment implies is if sport wants the money it currently attracts, then we cannot be so rigid with our moral beliefs.
The sporting landscape has been valued at UKL90billion. A massive amount of money. Yet that money is linked to some behaviours that sport can do without. Money in sport really has proven to be the root of all evil. Why else do athletes take drugs or assist betting companies?
Some may argue that athletes take drugs to be successful, yet the survey conducted in which elite athletes were asked would they take drugs if it guaranteed them Olympic Gold but they would be dead in ten years proved otherwise. Scarily over 70% of athletes said they would. Their reason being that the Gold medal would earn them enough money to find a cure and save their life. How does one combat such a school of thought?
Prior to the recent World Championships, Former Olympic Champion Carl Lewis, – who it has been alleged failed a drug test at the US trials for the 1988 Seoul Olympics but was never charged, – stated that he believed the sport for which he was a poster boy, “has been dying for two decades.”
The reason being the perception that performances are chemically enhanced, and the leniency of the penalties handed out to those who are caught. As one journalist wrote “Institutionalised cheating is overpowering.”
Lord Coe has not started off his time as President of the IAAF instilling confidence that things are going to change. His attack on those who detailed widespread doping allegations, was ill-advised and appeared to go against everything he had espoused for years. Maybe it was the way that these revelations came to the surface, maybe he was unaware as to how serious the problem was.
Somehow before the Olympic Games in Rio he has to try and restore the public’s trust and belief in what they are seeing. That is never going to be easy, but the Rio Olympics has to be a watershed moment for the sport of Athletics. A time when a clear message is conveyed that cheats are not welcome, reformed or otherwise.