Lord Coe admits the news that 109 athletes and coaches are facing disciplinary action for alleged doping is embarrassing but he welcomes the transparency in the matter.
The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) announced the news on Friday, with Olympic steeplechase champion and world record-holder Ruth Jebet among those included on the first list of provisional suspensions.
Of the 109 cases, the AIU said they relate to 103 ‘elite-level international athletes’ who have won 85 Olympic and world championship medals between them.
Set up last year as a response to the sport’s corruption and doping crisis, the AIU has now committed to a new public disclosure policy, which means the basic details of any disciplinary action it takes will be revealed online and via Twitter, with updates as each case proceeds.
Previously, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), and more recently the AIU, only disclosed cases when the entire process, including any appeal, was over.
However, from now on the AIU will publish the details of a case as it moves through five key phases: provisional suspension, cases pending a first disciplinary hearing, first hearing decision, appeals and finally appeal decisions.
Responding to the figures, IAAF president Coe told BBC 5 Live’s Sportsweek programme: ‘It’s too many. But let’s be clear, under the old system you wouldn’t be asking that question. We wouldn’t know the number, we wouldn’t know where we were in that process.
So it’s good that we are transparent about the challenge, we are not skirting the challenge. I’d rather face the embarrassment of facing the question than the genteel decline and obfuscation of the sport.
‘We’ve covered a lot of ground and I am delighted with the work the AIU has undertaken. They have gone for top athletes. These are serious offences.
‘We had a very good example of how long this process can take when we celebrated the reallocation of the 4 x 400m medalists from the Beijing (Olympic) Games just at the Anniversary Games in London yesterday – that’s taken eight years.
‘So it’s transparent and we absolutely believe it’s a credit to the work that’s gone into the integrity unit and we are leading the way on this.
‘It’s important to separate the clean athletes from a tainted system. We are absolutely clear the major burden of the challenge is to protect the clean athletes.
‘Not just to weed out the cheats but to protect those young athletes who devote half their young lives to the sport in a landscape where they know we will be on their side.’