Job search
Job Search

People: Seb Coe, IAAF president: "I care very little for the rights of athletes who've violated the sport"

Published in Sports Management 30 May 2016 issue 121
Read on turning pages | Download PDF of this issue
Sebastian Coe was named president of the IAAF last year / bruno bebert / Association Images
Sebastian Coe was named president of the IAAF last year/ bruno bebert / Association Images

A year ago Sebastian Coe was right in the thick of campaigning to become the president of the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF). His campaign was a successful one, and culminated with his election during the IAAF World Championships last August.

Coe smiled, expressed his excitement about the role he was going to play, and made the right noises about moving the sport into the modern era.

Despite rumblings and reports about doping and corruption that have dogged athletics for some years, Coe couldn’t have possibly envisaged what can reasonably be described as a turbulent first few months in office.

In November, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) published its seismic report which alleged state-sponsored doping in Russia, resulting in the nation being banned from elite athletic competition and a deep investigation into RUSADA, the Russian Anti-Doping Agency.

Subsequently, Coe’s predecessor Lamine Diack – whom he once labelled the sport’s “spiritual leader” – and his son were accused of blackmailing athletes who had committed doping offences.

Even Coe was accused of wrongdoing when he was alleged to have discussed Eugene’s bid for the 2021 World Athletics Championships with a Nike representative via email before the town was selected as host (Coe was a paid ambassador for the sportswear giant which is based in Oregon).

Nobody knows better than Coe that a lot can happen in a year, which begs the question: If he knew then what he knew now, would he have campaigned so hard?

“It seemed like a good idea at the time,” he says in a semi-joking manner during the Telegraph Business of Sport Conference 2016 in London, before using a phrase from 1960s American business to deliver his assessment on where athletics is.

“When you’re up to your arse in alligators it’s easily forgotten that the initial objective was to drain the swamp. I don’t need to tell anybody in this room that in the last few years – particularly in sport, but not uniquely in sport – there’s hardly an area of public life that hasn’t been challenged. The alligators have bitten,” he says.

Athletics, he concedes, has been bitten “quite hard”, but Coe remains defiant that although revelations over the last few months have “sorely tested the trust of many of our stakeholder groups”, the sport is “still intrinsically strong”.

“Our sport is not broken,” he says. “In the last month I’ve been to a World Indoor Athletics Championships in Portland, and for the first time I actually saw people queue up for tickets for track and field. It was so heavily subscribed we allowed youngsters to sit on the track and watch the pole vault competition.”

But Coe is quick to resist complacency. He points to the creation of the IAAF Ethics Board which is “often overlooked” as the “horror story of the last year or two has unravelled before our eyes”.

As well as anti-doping, Coe highlights several key challenges the IAAF must face, including athletes competing for more than one nation, age manipulation, illegal betting and the quality of coaching.

The former Conservative MP reveals that he began to worry about the level of coaching after a short conversation with a young athlete who was struggling to compete as a result of undertaking a training regime reliant on technical solutions.

“I guess my fear now is that we’ve produced a generation of very good sport scientists, but not necessarily a generation of good coaches,” he says. “We are now looking at the coaching of athletes as a set of technical solutions, and world-class sport scientists may have actually lost the understanding that coaching is a great deal more than that.”

Using the platform to advise “clean athletes” to show their coaches “the door” if they doubt their quality or integrity, and to “dob their mates in” if they suspect doping, it’s apparent the trust Coe wants to win back most of all is that of the competitors.

“If truth be told I really care very little for the rights of those athletes that have violated the sport,” he explains matter-of-factly. “I do actually care for the clean athletes, that’s why I threw my hat into the ring as federation president. And I care because I was one.”

He adds: “I came from a coaching structure headed up by my father and choreographed over the best part of 14 years that led to two Olympic titles and 11 world records. I was in a structure where they would have physically killed anybody that had suggested that there was a shortcut for any of the athletes.”

Sign up for FREE ezines & magazines
Sports jobs
Everyone Active
featured job

Swimming Teachers

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive hourly rate
Job location: Nationwide

General Manager

Coach Gyms
Salary: £30K Basic circa
Location: Leeds, UK

Managing Director - LACC

Harrogate Borough Council
Salary: Grade ACE: £69,871 - £74,307 per annum
Location: Harrogate, UK

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Middlesbrough, United Kingdom

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Rossmore, United Kingdom

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: St Albans, United Kingdom

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Alton, United Kingdom

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Fleet, United Kingdom

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: West Lindsey, United Kingdom

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Washington, United Kingdom
recruiting with sports management

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Stratford Upon Avon, United Kingdom

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Watford, United Kingdom

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Nuneaton, United Kingdom

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Bordon, United Kingdom

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Blandford Forum, United Kingdom

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Spelthorne, United Kingdom

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Leicester, United Kingdom
recruiting with sports management

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Watford, United Kingdom

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Blaby, United Kingdom

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Bishop's Stortford, United Kingdom

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Slough, United Kingdom

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Dunstable, United Kingdom

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Plymouth, United Kingdom

General Manager

truGym
Salary: Competitive
Location: Gateshead, UK
training with sports management

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Cotswold, United Kingdom

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Stroud, United Kingdom

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Poole, United Kingdom

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Chichester, United Kingdom

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Ealing, United Kingdom

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Ealing, United Kingdom

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Ashfield, United Kingdom
lifeguard jobs  swimming teacher jobs  recreation assistant jobs  apprenticeships jobs  personal trainer jobs  Gymnastics Coach jobs  duty manager jobs  assistant manager jobs  general manager jobs  assistant general manager jobs  Customer Services Advisor jobs  Catering Assistant jobs 
More jobs

Catalogue Gallery

Video Gallery

British Military Fitness
BMF with Bear Grylls has put up a £1m fund to get personal trainers, fitness instructors and class instructors back to work and earning money.
Visit website
More videos

Company profile

Company profile: TRX Training UK
TRX provides world-class functional training by offering quality equipment, effective workouts and world-class education capable of transforming full-body health.
View full profile >
More company profiles

Featured Supplier

The rise of the training pod
Belfast based gym equipment manufacturer BLK BOX designs, engineers and fabricates a range of rigs for the most elite, performance-driven organisations globally.
View full details >
More featured suppliers

Property & Tenders

Location: Waltham Abbey, Essex
Company: Lee Valley Regional Park Authority
More properties & tenders

Diary dates

21-24 Sep 2020
Loews Coronado Bay Resort, Coronado, United States
21-24 Sep 2020
Messe Stuttgart, Germany
22-23 Sep 2020
Heythrop Park, United Kingdom
17-23 Oct 2020
Pinggu, Beijing, China
More diary dates