Sebastian Coe admits IAAF is a ‘failed organisation’ but is backed to reform it

• Wada investigators lambast IAAF but endorse Coe’s presidency
• IAAF council, on which Coe has sat since 2003, ‘collectively did not do its job’

Sebastian Coe has admitted he presides over a “failed organisation” after the IAAF was subjected to excoriating criticism in a Wada report over its handling of corruption and doping cover-ups that went to the very top of the organisation.

As it emerged that World Anti-Doping Agency investigators feared the bidding process for every world athletics championships since 2009 may have been corrupted, the report showed the depths to which a cabal containing its former president Lamine Diack, his legal adviser Habib Cissé, his son Papa Massata Diack, the head of the IAAF anti-doping unit Gabriel Dollé and its treasurer Valentin Balakhnichev had sunk.

The Wada-commissioned report said the IAAF remained in denial about the extent to which officials must have known about the scale of the Russian doping issues. It said there was no way the IAAF council, of which Lord Coe has been a member since 2003, could not have known about “the extent of doping in athletics and the non-enforcement of applicable anti-doping rules” or of the nepotism that existed at the IAAF.

“There was an evident lack of political appetite within the IAAF to confront Russia with the full extent of its known and suspected doping activities,” it said, arguing the IAAF had been too quick to blame corrupt practices on a few bad apples in a series of defensive responses. “The corruption was embedded in the organisation. It cannot be ignored or dismissed as attributed to the odd renegade acting on his own. The IAAF allowed the conduct to occur and must accept its responsibility.”

Coe has been under extreme pressure to explain what he knew and when, and the report appeared to back up those who believe he must have been aware of the scale of the problem.

But his likelihood of withstanding the crisis was hugely boosted when the respected Dick Pound, the former head of Wada who headed the report, backed Coe to sort out the malaise that has brought athletics to its knees.

Wada says corruption went to the top at IAAF – video

“I think it’s a fabulous responsibility for the IAAF to seize this opportunity and, under strong leadership, to move forward,” said Pound, as Coe looked on at a press conference in Munich.

“There’s an enormous amount of reputational recovery that needs to occur here and I can’t think of anyone better than Lord Coe to lead that.” He said Coe “was a member of a council that collectively did not do its job” but it would be wrong to lay its failure at the feet of one individual.

The report heavily criticises Nick Davies, Coe’s chief of staff, who stood down in December after an email emerged that showed he was in contact with the IAAF marketing consultant Papa Massata Diack over how to time the release of failed Russian drug tests in 2013.

The first part of the Wada report, published in November, laid out systemic state sponsored doping on a huge scale in Russia and this second part dealt in more detail with the cover-ups and corruption at the IAAF that facilitated it.

It revealed that Lamine Diack, who was the IAAF president for 18 years, effectively headed a shadow operation run by his son Papa Massata and Cissé.

Revisiting how they subverted the anti-doping process and extorted money from the Russian marathon runner Liliya Shobukhova, it also included the detail that Lamine Diack told the IAAF’s legal chief, Huw Roberts, that the delay in sanctioning Russian athletes had put him in a “difficult position” that could only be resolved through his friendship with Vladimir Putin.

After watching Pound endorse his presidency as he battles to retain confidence in his ability to revive the sport, Coe cut a more contrite figure. “We are a failed organisation. I’m sorry if my language has in any way demonstrated a sort of a lack of understanding about the depth of this,” he said.

There will be more pain to come, after the French prosecutor Éliane Houlette issued an Interpol arrest notice for Papa Massata Diack, who is in his native Senegal, and it emerged its investigation would extend to a slew of sponsorship deals and bidding races as well as the doping extortion issues. Richard McClaren, one of the three members of the Independent Commission, said there was compelling information that the bidding processes for every world championships since 2009 and up to 2019 in Doha deserved further scrutiny.

The Guardian revealed in December 2014 that Papa Massata Diack had requested almost $5m from Qatar at a time when it was bidding to host the 2017 world championships.

“We have information, we don’t have hard evidence. But it’s enough information that it bears serious investigation. It needs to be investigated,” he said. “The process by which those decisions were made, who made them, why did they make them and why did other cities not get selected.”

The report also revealed how a Russian bank upped its sponsorship contribution from $6m to $25m overnight following a meeting in Moscow in 2013.

The Wada Commission did however vindicate the IAAF over claims that it failed to follow up hundreds of suspicious blood values. “The key finding is that the database used by ARD and the Sunday Times could not have been used to prosecute athletes for doping violations prior to the establishment of the Athlete Blood Passport in 2009,” it said.

Paula Radcliffe, the marathon world record holder whose name was revealed as being one of those on the database, said the report vindicated her and proved there was “no substance” to the claims.

“The findings that the independent commission gave was that there was no substance to the very damaging allegations made by the Sunday Times and the Australian scientists Dr Ashenden and Perisotto,” she argued. “That they acted on incomplete data, which was what was said, and they drew conclusions that couldn’t be drawn without having the full context available.”

• This article was amended on 20 January 2016. An earlier version used coruscating, when excoriating was meant.


Owen Gibson in Munich

The GuardianTramp

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