IAAF President Sebastian Coe speaks during the Leaders Sports Business Summit in Abu DhabiIAAF President Sebastian Coe speaks during the Leaders Sports Business Summit in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, January 31, 2019. REUTERS/Nick Mulvenney
By Nick Mulvenney
ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Sebastian Coe on Thursday all but confirmed that he would run for a second term as President of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to continue the fight against doping and complete his mission to rejuvenate the sport.
The 62-year-old British former Olympic 1,500 metres champion was elected to the post in 2015 amid the full storm of a major doping scandal and has spent much of his term trying to battle the use of banned substances in track and field.
"I think we've made a very good start in the first few years," Coe told Reuters in an interview at the Leaders Sport Business Summit in Abu Dhabi.
"The first two or three years were very clearly about reform, about creating structures that were safe and secure, about providing foundations that would give confidence ... that we are a sport worth investing time, resource and finance into.
"The next leg of the journey has to be about innovation, it has to be about growing the sport, creating an exciting experience, particularly for young people.
"That's the fun bit, so clearly I would like to be part of it."
The densest cloud hanging over the IAAF for the last three years has been the fallout from the Russian doping scandal, which resulted in the country's athletics federation effectively being kicked out of the sport.
The IAAF instituted an independent process for the reinstatement of Russia, which included analysis of historic athlete samples now held by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
As it was an independent process, Coe said it was difficult for him to predict whether Russian athletes would be able to compete under their own flag at this year's world championships in Doha or at next year's Tokyo Olympics.
"We need to have systems in place that we trust, we need to enable athletes are able to express concerns ... we need to have coaches that have been plying their trade not included in the sport," he said.
"We have to make sure that criteria is met, and when it is met, hopefully full reinstatement."
In the meantime, in what Coe said was "very important philosophical position" for him, Russian athletes would continue to be able to compete internationally under "neutral status" once they fulfilled certain criteria.
Coe said the progress made in the fight against doping had also seen results in reassuring existing and potential sponsors and he looked forward to announcing new partners soon.
"RELEVANT, FUN, EXCITING"
The chief organiser of the 2012 London Olympics was also looking forward to getting into the business of reviving the presentation of the sport, a process which started with an IAAF innovation workshop in London last week.
Coe said market research showed that fans wanted a better broadcast and internet experience, and improvements in stadiums.
"The next stage of the journey is making us relevant, making us fun, exciting in the world of young people," he said.
There would probably be changes to the elite Diamond League series from the 2020, he said, and attempts to re-engage retired Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt with the sport he dominated for a decade.
"I can't think of any competitor, barring Muhammad Ali, that has connected with people so well so of course we want him involved," he said.
Although Coe said he was not "cavalier" about the doping problem, he believes the IAAF congress that meets in Doha in September for the presidential election is overseeing a "significantly safer" sport than in years past.
"One positive test is too many, but the systems that we have available to us are 20, 30, 40 times safer than they were 10, 15, 20 years ago and certainly when I was competing," Coe said.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Ed Osmond)