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Coe: A long road to redemption

IAAF President Sebastian Coe warned yesterday that athletics faces a “long road to redemption” as allegations of blackmail and doping scams in the sport — many linked to Russia — are set to be revealed in an inquiry report.

Olympic sports will be bracing for severe damage when a World Anti-Doping Agency panel delivers findings into claims of top officials’ complicity in extorting athletes and concealing drug cheats.

Longtime IAAF President Lamine Diack was last week put under criminal suspicion of corruption and money laundering by French prosecutors acting on evidence provided by the WADA-appointed inquiry team.

The 82-year-old Diack left office in August after 16 years and his successor, Coe, said he knew nothing about the allegations until being informed by French authorities.

“Clear shock, a great deal of anger and a lot of sadness,” Coe told the BBC in describing his reaction to the investigation into Diack. “These are dark days for our sport but I’m more determined than ever to rebuild the trust in our sport. It’s not going to be a short journey ... this is a long road to redemption.”

Coe served for eight years under Diack as a vice president before replacing the Senegalese and then lauding him as the IAAF’s “spiritual president”.

“I’m well aware I’m going to come into some criticism for those remarks,” Coe said. “Should we in hindsight have had systems in place? Should we have known more? Probably we should have done.”

The doping inquiry team, which was chaired by IOC veteran Dick Pound, will present some findings in Geneva today.

“This report is going to be a real game-changer for sport,” said Richard McLaren, a Canadian lawyer who sits on Pound’s three-member panel.

“This is a whole different scale of corruption than the FIFA scandal or the IOC scandal in respect to Salt Lake City,” McLaren said in comments published by Western University in Canada, where he is a professor of law.

Russia will be targeted by the report just over two years since Moscow hosted the 2013 track and field world championships, and less than two years since the Sochi Winter Games.

Asked yesterday about countries being thrown out of the sport, Coe backed “engagement rather than isolation if we want change”.

Coe had previously described the media’s coverage of doping allegations as a “declaration of war”.

WADA formed the independent inquiry after German broadcaster ARD aired a documentary — “Top secret doping: How Russia makes its winners?” — last December. It alleged systematic doping across athletics and other summer and winter Olympic sports.

The program implicated officials in Russia’s athletics federation, anti-doping agency and WADA-accredited laboratory in Moscow in acts of bribery to hush up positive doping tests, falsify tests and supply banned drugs.

In the French case, Diack’s legal adviser at the IAAF, Habib Cisse, and the former head of the IAAF’s anti-doping program, Gabriel Dolle, were also detained and charged with corruption.

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