POSTED: January 14th 2016

NEIL WILSON: Lord Coe cleared by Dick Pound but questions remain for IOC

Dick Pound (center) at the independent commisison press conference / RT video
Dick Pound (center) at the independent commisison press conference / RT video

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(SFC) Lord Sebastian Coe, president of the International Association of Athletic Federations, is the best man to see athletic's  global governing body out of the mess left by his predecessor.

That is the opinion of Dick Pound, the Eliot Ness of sport whose WADA-created independent commission into the IAAF and doping in Russia, reported its findings in Munich on Thursday.

"I cannot think of anybody better than Lord Coe to remain as IAAF head.  It is a fantastic opportunity for it to move on from this under strong leadership," said Pound.

Pound had promised a WOW factor in his second report but Coe's critics could not believe that it would be a not-guilty verdict in the case of Coe. Horrified spluttering in the media, Twitter and Facebook followed instantly. Those who had been calling for his lordship's head could not believe what they were hearing.

More so because as they speed read the 89-page report given them only 30 minutes earlier they had in the first twenty minutes of Pound's press conference listened to a catalogue of corruption within the IAAF "at the very top" by president Lamine Diack, his two sons, his personal lawyer and members of the IAAF staff,

IAAF had inadequate governance processes in place to prevent corruption, a lack of political will to confront Russia and its council under Diack "could not have been unaware" of doping and rule breaking.

So his subsequent defence of the new leader who was on that council came as the biggest surprise of the report's publication. Only Coe's recent reluctance to accept that the IAAF was mired in deep trouble brought criticism from Pound.

In all other aspects, he gave Coe a clean bill of health. "Coe could not have been aware of the extent of the mess (when he praised Diack's inspirational leadership on his retirement as IAAF president)," said Pound. "Lord Coe could not have had the faintest idea of the extent of these activities."

Pound's advice to Coe was to accept that there was a cover up and denials. "Acknowledge that because if you can't you will never get past it," he said. And while he is getting his grip on things he should also do a forensic investigation of the awarding of host city rights to Qatar and Eugene of future world championships, said Pound.

Also surprising was his commission's findings on the ARD/Sunday Times story backed by two eminent Australian scientists which had triggered the commission's work. Their allegations on blood passport data prior to 2009 could not have been used to prosecute athletes, was incomplete and the IAAF reacted properly in their follow-up tests. So no story there, he was concluding.

Indeed, the WOW factor was in the report but in a throwaway paragraph which will most trouble the International Olympic Committee. Apparently, Diack's sons asked for $4-5 million for him to vote for Istanbul for the 2020 Olympics and were paid that amount by Tokyo, the eventual winners.

The commission said it was not within its remit to investigate that further but it is hard to believe that the IOC will not want to ask its own questions. Diack is no longer a member but those organising 2020 in Japan must be asked for answers.

** NEIL WILSON reported his first Olympic Games in Munich in 1972. He has since covered another nine summer and nine winter Olympics for various newspapers, including The Independent and the Daily Mail with whom he has worked for the last 19 years as Athletics and Olympic correspondent. He was Britain's Sports Journalist of the Year in 1984 and is the author of seven books.

Keywords · Olympics · IAAF · Neil Wilson

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