Clean-up calls open IAAF congress voting on broad reforms

Clean-up calls open IAAF congress voting on broad reforms

Updated Mar. 4, 2020 7:01 p.m. ET

MONACO (AP) Calls for clean sport and deep change marked the opening on Saturday of a special athletics congress that is voting on broad reforms in hope of turning the corner on reputation-wrecking corruption and doping scandals.

''It does need cleaning. That's just a fact,'' former Olympic and world javelin champion Andreas Thorkildsen told IAAF delegates.

In a boost for the governing body, Japanese sportswear manufacturer Asics was set to be unveiled as a new sponsor, after Adidas cut short its commercial agreement with the IAAF that had been due to run until 2019. An IAAF official who spoke on condition of anonymity because IAAF President Sebastian Coe hadn't yet announced the deal, said Asics is signing up for at least three years, through the 2017 and 2019 world championships.

The special congress of track and field leaders from around the world is being asked to approve Coe's ''Time for Change'' reform proposals that notably will change the way doping cases are investigated and prosecuted, increase the participation of women and give athletes a greater say.


''Let's not beat around the bush,'' Coe told the meeting in Monaco. ''Our sport, our family, is under threat.''

Coe said too much power had been concentrated in too few hands under his predecessor Lamine Diack, now facing corruption and money-laundering charges in France where prosecutors are investigating alleged doping cover-ups and payoffs involving athletes from Russia.

Coe recalled how IAAF offices were raided by French police officers who seized files after he took over as president in 2015. He noted that the further, recent ''grotesque'' revelations of wrongdoing under Diack spoke of ''extraordinary sums of money allegedly changing hands.''

''You should all feel violated,'' Coe said. ''This is money that could have been used for the development of athletics.''

Coe wants a new unit, largely independent of the IAAF, to handle doping cases involving international-level athletes, taking that job away from IAAF member countries. The IAAF argues that will quicken the punishment of cheats, make punishments more uniform, and remove opportunities for favoritism and corruption. The IAAF wants the so-called integrity unit launched by April.

Coe said the reforms will ensure that ''never again can one person wield unchecked power,'' and were required for the multi-million dollar business that athletics has become.

''We're putting in place a framework that should have been there years ago,'' he said.

To pass, Coe's reforms need approval from 131 of the 197 IAAF member federations that attended the congress - a two-thirds majority. Russia is suspended for systematic, deep-rooted doping.

Former and current athletes echoed Coe's appeals for bold change.

''We have to save athletics,'' said Ethiopian running great Haile Gebrselassie, president of his country's athletics federation.

American sprinter Candace Hill, the world youth champion over 100 and 200 meters, said: ''We have to have a federation who is clean, who is behind us.''

High jumper Rozle Prezelj, chair of the IAAF athletes' commission, said: ''With those changes which are on the table today, we can become the No. 1 sport. We must bury our own interests for the greater good.''