Lord Coe and The IAAF come out fighting against 'simply false' Sunday Times doping claims

Athletics' world governing body has issued a detailed, nine-page statement refuting what it has called "simply false" allegations about widespread doping in the sport reported in The Sunday Times and by German broadcaster ARD/WDR.

Lord Seb Coe: Allegations are "simply false, disappointing, and misinformed journalism"
Lord Seb Coe: Allegations are "simply false, disappointing, and misinformed journalism"

In addition, Lord Seb Coe, the former British Olympian and current vice-president of The International Association of Athletics Federations, undertook a number of media interviews yesterday and today echoing these views. He described the claims as "an attempt to destroy the reputation of athletes and our sport".

The Sunday Times and ARD/WDR reported on what it said was data from 5,000 athletes revealing "extraordinary" levels of cheating in the sport. They claimed around one in three medals in recent Olympics and World Championships were won by athletes who had suspicious blood test results.

The IAAF's nine-page statement released on Tuesday says the "experts" referred to in the articles "have never worked for The IAAF and are therefore in no position to make any comment regarding what the IAAF has done or not done" in its testing programmes.

"To do so is simply guess work on their part. The IAAF categorically refutes all allegations made by ARD and The Sunday Times and, specifically, that it failed in its duty to pursue an effective blood testing programme at all times."

The IAAF described the allegations as "sensationalist and confusing".

"The results referred to were not positive tests. In fact, ARD and The Sunday Times both admit that their evaluation of the data did not prove doping."

It said any claim that The IAAF was "negligent in addressing or following up the suspicious profiles" was "simply false, disappointing, and misinformed journalism".

Chris Turner, The IAAF's deputy director of PR, told PRWeek via email this morning: "As you’ll imagine the global level of media interest is huge, with our statement having been used by more than 1,280,000 media outlets worldwide since we sent our release late yesterday."

Coe, who is also chairman of the Chime Communications-owned sports marketing agency CMS, criticised the basis for the allegations in several media interviews.

The BBC quotes him saying: "The use of this stuff, the sensationalising, this is absolutely an attempt to destroy the reputation of the athletes and our sport.

"Nobody is remotely suggesting that news organisations don't have the right to question and challenge and kick the tyres. But this selective use of this so-called information is just wrong."

He added: "The fightback has to start here. It is a declaration of war on my sport."

The Sunday Times has issued its own statement in response to the IAAF, saying its report was "based on a thorough analysis of the IAAF's own data by two of the world's foremost anti-doping scientists".

It added: "As we reported, one of the scientists commented: "Never have I seen such an alarmingly abnormal set of blood values ... So many athletes appear to have doped with impunity and it is damning that the IAAF appears to have idly sat by and let this happen.

"This story of immense public interest is based on an impeccable source, thoroughly researched, precisely conveyed and responsibly communicated. We did not draw any sweeping conclusions going beyond the evidence we obtained.

"It is disingenuous of the IAAF to spend just two days conducting what it describes as a "thorough" investigation into the serious issues we raised and then to attempt to dismiss the story as sensationalist.

"The IAAF bases its rejection of the story on the fact that the data does not "prove doping". That is not the point. Blood doping can be hard to prove but suspicious blood values are a strong indicator of it, and the IAAF had data that showed how widespread and outlandish some of the values have been. Many were extreme to the point of being irrefutable and IAAF has accepted this because it does now censure athletes on their blood scores, and our experts precisely followed their current procedure.

"The IAAF, by its own admission, has been aware of the extent of the problem for several years, and yet only employs 10 people to oversee a testing regime covering thousands of athletes across more than 200 countries.

"Its refusal to accept any criticism raises serious questions as to whether the IAAF is truly committed to its primary duty of policing its sport and protecting clean athletes."

The IAAF acted swiftly with its initial response to the story, issuing a short statement on Sunday saying the claims were "largely based on analysis of an IAAF Data Base of private and confidential medical data which has been obtained without consent".

"The IAAF is now preparing a detailed response to both media outlets and will reserve the right to take any follow-up action necessary to protect the rights of the IAAF and its athletes," the organisation said at the time.

Earlier this summer, Coe spoke to PRWeek at length about his views of sport, sponsorships, politics and controversies.

This article was updated at 11.07am on Wednesday with a comment from the Sunday Times.

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