LORD Coe will discover tomorrow if he has been entrusted with the top job in athletics – and at one of the most crucial times in the sport’s history.
Coe is running against Sergey Bubka, the Ukrainian pole vault great, for the presidency of the International Association of Athletics Federations, the sport’s world governing body, with the election taking place at the IAAF Congress in Beijing ahead of the start of this year’s World Championships.
Doping is a major threat to the sport we all love and we must fight this battle head-onSergey Bubka
The 58-year-old, like Bubka already an IAAF vice-president, is seen as the favourite to succeed Lamine Diack and take on the challenge of repairing the standing of a sport whose very credibility is under threat because of repeated drug scandals.
Allegations of doping on a mass scale and cover-ups at the very top of the sport threaten to destroy its already fragile reputation.
The 214 IAAF member federations will vote to decide who will take over from Diack, the 82-year-old from Senegal, who has been president since 1999.
The mood in Coe’s camp is positive, although there is a determination not to let up and to keep the momentum going all the way to election day.
Coe, who is also chairman of the British Olympic Association, is well out in front in terms of public declarations of support.
He has travelled around 700,000 kilometres across the globe during the campaign in his bid to garner support, and the strength and range of the public endorsements, which have come from federations in Europe, North America, the Caribbean and Africa, are significant, but by no means a guarantee of success.
Both Coe and Bubka have highlighted the need to overhaul the athletics calendar, introducing more “street meets”, increase commercial revenue, empower national federations and encourage young people into the sport.
But it is the fight against banned drugs which will be front and centre of the new president’s reign.
The former London 2012 chairman said in his manifesto: “The fight against those who continue to lie and cheat is not over – far from it – and it is crucial that we continue to increase resources in this battle for our sport’s integrity and now is the time to dramatically close the gap between a positive test and the relevant sanction.”
Bubka said: “Doping is a major threat to the sport we all love and we must fight this battle head-on to ensure our sport has a clean future.”
The IAAF has come under fierce attack amid allegations – which it vehemently denies – that it turned a blind eye to suspicious blood test results from hundreds of athletes. Last week it suspended 28 athletes over historic doping offences, while on Sunday it was forced to deny allegations it blocked the publication of a study that claimed around a third of athletes at the 2011 World Championships admitted doping.
Coe, who has pledged to set up an independent anti-doping agency for athletics inside his first 100 days in office should he be voted in, has been the most outspoken voice on the accusations the IAAF has ignored possible widespread drug use, calling them a “declaration of war” on the sport.
It was a strong statement of support for the governing body and brought with it criticism and accusations, denied by Coe, of electioneering. Bubka’s -response was less inflammatory.
Unlike Coe, Bubka is also a candidate for vice president and could serve under Coe should the Briton win the presidential vote. Should Coe lose out to Bubka he will no longer hold a position within the IAAF.
Honours: Twice Olympic 1500m champion; twice Olympic 800m silver medallist; 12 world records
Key posts: IAAF vice-president (2007-present); chairman of British Olympic Association (2012-present); chairman of the London 2012 organising committee.
Manifesto: Growing Athletics in a New Age
What he said: “Athletics is now operating in a world experiencing rapid and profound social, economic and technological change. Unless we embrace and respond to these changes together and with vision, the sport faces an increasingly uncertain future.”
Honours: Olympic pole vault champion; seven-times world champion; 35 world records
Key posts: IAAF vice-president (2007-present); president of the Ukrainian Olympic Committee (2005-present)
Manifesto: Taking Athletics to New Heights
What he said: “I pledge to serve the athletics community, its members and federations with integrity, passion and transparency. I promise to focus my efforts within the IAAF on developing grassroots programmes, our national federations and engaging with youth to preserve and enhance our legacy.”