"It cannot be up to who has the better chemist"

von Hajo Seppelt, Jörg Winterfeldt

Sebastian Coe is only stopping over in Berlin. He seems relaxed, he is simply a guest at these European Championships. The former Olympic double gold medallist Coe presides over the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). He is a true globetrotter: Yesterday in Nigeria, today in Berlin, his office in Monaco and a two million pound home in Surrey, Great Britain.

But the British Lord shows no signs of stress and strain in spite of his frequent travelling. Coe has changed little since his past glory days as an athlete. A few more lines give distinction to his face, here and there the colour of his black hair has changed to grey. Yet he is as wiry as ever in his white trainers, blue jeans and his federation-branded polo shirt. Certainly Coe is in good shape for his 61 years, as he appears for his interview with ARD in the television compound of Berlin’s Olympic Stadium - he talks about Russia's state doping, his controversy with IOC boss Thomas Bach and his cleanup efforts within his own federation.

Implemented strong measures

Cleary the huge scandals his sport has faced have done harm neither to his sprightliness nor his charm, although he himself has not operated faultlessly in the course of the affairs. Doping cover-ups and corruption tainted the presidency of his predecessor Lamine Diack. Appearing before Britain's Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee in parliament in December 2015 Coe’s credibility suffered. He testified he had not been aware of any "specific allegations" about Russia’s corrupted anti-doping-system before watching the ARD documentary in December 2014. His countries' politicians were not amused in light of contradictory evidence.

In the meantime Lord Coe, with an iron fist and a reliable instinct for power, has done considerable cleaning-up. Coe's IAAF implemented strong measures to assure that comparable aberration can be avoided in the future. In order to comply Coe is also willing to battle with other leaders of world sport, namely the German president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach. Bach is known for his leniency towards Russia in the aftermath of their state dioing system coming to light.

The two key gaps

While Bach appears to be primarily interested in forgetting the Russian state-sponsored doping system and its cover-up, Coe is taking steps to ensure Russia change their behaviour towards doping. The IAAF is holding Russia to a set of internationally set preconditions they must meet before they are again allowed to take their place a fully-fledged member nation in athletics. "The two key gaps in the criteria of course are: We await WADA’s interpretation and code compliance for RUSADA. There is also the recognition around the work of Schmid and McLaren", Coe tells ARD in an exclusive interview.

Samuel Schmid, former member of the Swiss Federal Council, led an IOC-inquriy into Russia’s state doping system and Canadian law professor Richard McLaren produced a report for the World Anti-doping Agency. Should Russia continue to not comply with international demands set forth, Coe is urging the IOC to not allow the country's to compete in international sports competitions , such as Tokyo 2020, while wearing its national colours and having its national anthem played. "Going down the track of course", Coe tells ARD, "I hope that isn’t the case. I really genuinely hope we get to a position where reinstatement is possible because they have met the criteria. Look, I did not come into the sport as an ex-athlete to stop athletes competing."

Still denied olympic membership

Coe, a true Lord of the Rings, gold medal-winner in the 1500 metres in the boycotted-1980 and 1984 Olympics, risks a collision with Bach's mighty IOC because of his firmness. His reaction to this possibility is met with a smile: As the leader of the IAAF, due to his federations' standing in the Olympic Games as one of the two core sports, Coe should be automatically granted IOC Membership but three years after he is still waiting. "This is a matter for the International Olympic Commitee", Coe says, "and I really can’t add a great deal of colour or flavour to that question."

Sebastian Coe claims he has sufficient positions on enough international boards to represent his sport in the best possible manner. Not being accepted into the IOC so far, "is not something fretting about", Coe says, "I threw my hat in the ring as an IAAF-president, because I wanted to serve the IAAF. But I don’t think that my sport is not being represented at the right level. I am sure I’m doing that."

"There must have been massive breaches"

Coe was voted IAAF president in August 2015. He is convinced that his vigorous anti-doping efforts were without alternative, otherwise athletics might have perished. "I am absolutely sure about that", Coe says, "sports don’t just die and disappear but I think there would have been a serious question about credibility and a serious question whether we took the challenges with which we were confronted seriously. And I think that the sport showed that we did take it seriously."

The former double Olympic champion admits that his own career took off in an uncontrolled atmosphere when it came to doping. "It is very clear, looking back, that the system or the lack of a system, that I came through, meant that there must have been massive breaches. I am not saying that we are in the Elysian Fields, where there is a utopian world where there will never be anymore doping."

The former politician and chief organiser of the London Olympics 2012 stresses that his work is totally oriented towards athletes. "Our biggest challenge isn’t just to remove the cheats from the sport, our biggest challenge is to protect the clean athletes. That's why we remove the cheats. It’s not because we get vicarious pleasure from watching athletes lose their careers, it is because actually our incentive has to be at all times to protect the clean athlete", Coe tells ARD, "I think technology, the media, the openness, with which athletes are now recognising that it is better to have a landscape where competition is free and fair and open and not determined because the athlete in lane 5 has a better set of chemists than the athlete in lane 3."

Names, numbers and cases

As president of the IAAF he has worked on two major problems. "One of the key measures was to reduce the power of the president. So that I am not in the position to sign agreements, contracts without the approval of an audit and finance commission", Coe says, "they can’t be done unilaterally, the council now is across them."

Furthermore Coe had an independent ethics board established, the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU). It serves as an independent watchdog to help prevent doping and corruption in the sport. For the sake of better transparency athletics is taking it further than most other sports: They publish the number of ongoing doping cases as well as the names of athletes who face doping charges at the beginning of proceedings. "It took us six months to agree with the local data protection agencies to our headquarters. We said that it was really important that there was transparency around the process. And some of the damage that our sport has suffered, is for the media in not getting answers. It’s systems and processes that seemed to drag on forever. And we wanted to be clear and open."

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Aktueller Medaillenspiegel
Platz Land G S B
1. Flagge Russland RUS 31 19 16
2. Flagge Großbritannien GBR 26 26 22
3. Flagge Italien ITA 15 17 28
4. Flagge Niederlande NED 15 15 13
5. Flagge Deutschland GER 13 17 23
6. Flagge Frankreich FRA 13 14 15
7. Flagge Polen POL 9 6 6
Stand nach 187 von 187 Entscheidungen.

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