Reforms put daylight between old and new eras in athletics

December 3, 2016

MONACO (AP) Sebastian Coe declared an ''historic'' new dawn for the scandal-wounded governing body of track and field after its members on Saturday overwhelmingly backed his package of broad changes to the way it operates and polices doping.

The IAAF president's ''Time for Change'' reforms won 95 percent support from 192 countries that cast valid votes at a special congress and vociferous backing from some of the sport's biggest names.

The launching of a new, largely independent unit to fight doping, broader vetting of IAAF officials and a greater say for women and athletes won't immediately repair the scorching reputational damage done by revelations of doping cover-ups and alleged IAAF corruption under Coe's predecessor, Lamine Diack. French prosecutors working to unpick webs of alleged pay-offs for IAAF protection of athletes who were doping are still gathering evidence, with Russia now cooperating, so there could still be more dark headlines for Coe to deal with.

Still, comfortable passage of reforms championed by the middle-distance former Olympic champion and the recognition voiced by athletics officials that they and their sport risked being marginalized if they rejected change do put increasing daylight between the Diack and Coe eras.


''This is a good and historic day for our sport,'' Coe said, his mood noticeably lifted by the voting result of North Korean proportions.

In another boost, the IAAF also announced a new sponsor, Japanese sportswear manufacturer Asics, to replace Adidas, which cut short their commercial partnership that had been due to run until 2019. The three-year deal with Asics will run through the IAAF's world championships in 2017 and 2019.

Coe's vigorous campaigning was rewarded with congress delegates standing up one after the other to voice support before casting votes.

''We need to act now to save our sport,'' said Paula Radcliffe, the women's marathon record holder, speaking for Britain.

Open balloting made it possible to identify the 10 countries that voted `No,' making them look isolated in the sea of 182 `Yes' votes. Jamaica, home to Usain Bolt and women's Olympic sprint champion Elaine Thompson, was one of five abstainers.

Coe's presidency was almost immediately plunged into crisis after he took over from Diack in August 2015. He reminded the congress that police officers raided IAAF offices, seizing files, when he was just settling in. He noted that recent additional ''grotesque'' allegations 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.''

Warning that ''we cannot let this happen again,'' Coe said too much power had been concentrated in too few hands under Diack, now facing corruption and money-laundering charges in France. He said the reforms will ensure that ''never again can one person wield unchecked power,'' and are 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.

The so-called integrity unit planned for launch in April is the standout change. It will handle doping cases involving all international-level athletes, taking that job away from IAAF member countries. The IAAF argues the change will quicken the punishment of cheats, make punishments more uniform, and remove opportunities for favoritism and corruption. The IAAF said the unit's annual budget of US$8 million (7.5 million euros) will double what it currently spends on anti-doping.

Women will be equally represented on the IAAF ruling council by 2027, and council members - including the president - will be limited to no more than three four-year terms. Athletes will double their council representation from one seat to two.

While some delegates expressed reservations, including about the open vote, reform supporters carried the day.

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

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