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Corruption-hit IAAF adopts Coe’s reforms

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International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) President Sebastian Coe addresses a press conference following a two-day IAAF council meeting on December 1, 2016 in Monaco. Russia remains suspended from international athletics competition after the IAAF voted on December 1 to extend the ban on the country for state-sponsored doping. The IAAF Council, voting under the presidency of Sebastian Coe, was unanimous in its decision to uphold the suspension despite Russian President Vladimir Putin having recently approved a law criminalising doping in sports. VALERY HACHE / AFP

International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) President Sebastian Coe addresses a press conference following a two-day IAAF council meeting on December 1, 2016 in Monaco. Russia remains suspended from international athletics competition after the IAAF voted on December 1 to extend the ban on the country for state-sponsored doping. The IAAF Council, voting under the presidency of Sebastian Coe, was unanimous in its decision to uphold the suspension despite Russian President Vladimir Putin having recently approved a law criminalising doping in sports.<br />VALERY HACHE / AFP

The IAAF on Saturday unanimously adopted a reform package drawn up by president Sebastian Coe in a bid to end “grotesque” corruption that has rocked track and field’s governing body.

In a Special Congress in Monaco, 182 member federations voted for the reforms, with 10 against and five invalid votes. Some 197 of the IAAF’s 213 member federations were present.

“Let me thank you for the confidence that you have shown the Council today in the reform proposals that you have agreed to. This is a very important moment in the history of our sport,” said Coe.

Coe’s reforms, with a nod to disgraced predecessor Lamine Diack’s abuse of the presidency, include stripping himself of some powers, with the president and IAAF Council not allowed to serve more than 12 years and with more checks put in place.

They also push for gender balance, handing athletes a greater voice and crucially establishing an independent integrity unit that would manage all anti-doping matters and be responsible for greater intelligence gathering.

Since Coe took office in August 2015, the IAAF has been mired in the fall-out from the presidency Diack, at the centre of a corruption scandal in which several former senior IAAF officials were found to have bribed Russian athletes to keep quiet over positive doping tests.

Coe admitted that the reforms had not been to everyone’s taste, all the while praising the “civilised discourse” and the “clarity and honesty of dialogue”.

“The fundamental principles, I believe, have broad support,” said the Briton, a two-time Olympic 1500m gold medallist.

“On gender balance, a number of areas told me they needed more time – you’ve got it.

“I want checks and balances in place… I don’t want to be in an office choosing carpets and signing off expenses.

“I would not ask for change if I didn’t think we needed it.”

– Bold stance –

Coe’s bold stance on gender equality envisages the 26-member Council transitioning to half-men, half-women by 2023. At the 2019 Council election, he wants a minimum of nine of each gender elected including two vice-presidents of each gender.

Indicative of the ground shift that will entail was that just three of the 42 member federations who addressed the Congress before the vote were women, notably Paula Radcliffe representing Britain and also including representatives from the Cook Islands and the Turks and Caicos.

Notable countries voting against the reforms were Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the latter the host of the 2019 World Athletics Championships and 2022 Football World Cup.

Abstainees included Lamine Diack’s Senegal, vice-president Sergey Bubka’s Ukraine and track powerhouses Jamaica, despite Usain Bolt picking up a record sixth IAAF Athlete of the Year award on Friday and throwing his weight behind Coe.

“I know that Seb Coe is trying to make track and field more transparent to everyone so they can see what shape it is in and to make sure there is not one person fully in control,” said Bolt.

“That’s a bold move from him as IAAF president.

“That’s also helped the sport to make people more confident and to trust the sport more.”


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