Show passion and follow cycling's example on drug claims, PRs tell Lord Coe

The world athletics governing body says it will take time to digest the findings of an independent report that accuses Russia of widespread doping - but the sport faces a fight to save its reputation.

2010 Summer Youth Olympics, Singapore (Credit: Jack at Wikipedia via Flickr)
2010 Summer Youth Olympics, Singapore (Credit: Jack at Wikipedia via Flickr)

On Monday 9 November, a 335-page report commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency was published, which recommended the suspension of the All-Russian Athletics Federation from International Association of Athletics Federations competitions.

The IAAF immediately responded with a statement from its president Lord Sebastian Coe saying: "We need time to properly digest and understand the detailed findings included in the report. However, I have urged the council to start the process of considering sanctions against ARAF. This step has not been taken lightly."

The day before the report's publication, the IAAF had responded to media reports of its contents by disclosing questions received from journalists, and the answers the IAAF had provided – saying this was done "in an effort to be as transparent as possible".

WADA president Sir Craig Reedie said on Monday that the report would "shock and appal athletes and sports fans worldwide", and on Tuesday announced the provisional suspension of the Moscow Anti-Doping Center.

Also on Monday, Interpol announced it would "co-ordinate a global investigation led by France into an alleged international corruption scam involving sports officials as well as athletes suspected of a doping cover-up".

Scott Bowers, group director of comms at UK racecourse owner The Jockey Club and formerly head of sport at Weber Shandwick, said: "Seb Coe is a champion of athletes and clean sport. Everything he and the IAAF says and does should reflect that. We want to know he is as angry as any athlete or fan right now.

"Speak with passion, empathy and a steely resolve that if you are a cheat he is coming for you. Show you are leading the solution, rather than defend the past. Every youngster and parent needs assurance that hard work, like his years ago, is what makes a champion in his sport in the future. And do everything to make that happen and take us with you by communicating every step of the way.‎"

Coe was elected IAAF president in August, following a campaign in which allegations of drug use in athletics played a major part.

David Alexander, managing director of Calacus PR and a former football writer, said: "The governance of sport has been under great scrutiny over the past couple of years, starting with cycling then football and now athletics. Audiences have really started to question the integrity of track and field events and younger audiences are not as engaged as they could be in what is the most accessible form of sport.

"Sebastian Coe needs to follow the example set by Brian Cookson at the International Cycling Union and undertake a thorough root and branch review of the IAAF as an organisation. The fight against doping must be a major focus of Coe’s presidency if the sport is going to recover its popularity of years gone by."

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