Abu Dhabi: Lord Sebastian Coe, the beleaguered president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), should follow cycling’s robust approach to anti-doping in a bid to clean up athletics, according to British Olympic legend Sir Matthew Pinsent.
Sir Matthew, who won four consecutive rowing gold medals at the Games between 1992 and 2004, also believes there is no better person than Coe to restore people’s faith in a sport facing crises on and off the track.
Last week, Coe denied knowing that “bribes were being offered or received” in relation to the award of the 2017 World Athletics Championships after it was claimed that he passed on rumours of “brown envelopes”.
Since being elected as the IAAF president last August, he has also witnessed a number of scandals, including the banning of Russia from international athletics competitions after an independent World Anti-Doping Agency report alleged widespread doping by Russian athletes.
Sir Matthew is confident Coe can repair athletics’ shattered credibility, however, if he takes a leaf out of the book of Brian Cookson, the president of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), who has vigorously attempted to clamp down on doping in cycling.
“If you look at what Brian Cookson has done in cycling, he’s been very quick to distance himself from the previous administration,” the 45-year-old told Gulf News at the Abu Dhabi Invitational golf event at Yas Links on Sunday. “He’s been very good at investigating what’s gone on in cycling and he’s asked for help from people who were there at the time.
“Ultimately, he’s put his hands up and said cycling can do a lot better and I think Seb needs to do similarly. It’s no good pretending that anything that went on before now, certainly within the IAAF, was acceptable.
“Things have got to change.”
“I think Seb is the best guy for the job,” Sir Matthew added, when asked about Coe’s credentials. “I can’t see anyone else coming from within athletics that has his track record.”
Sir Matthew is confident that athletics can emerge from its “deep, dark hole” in time for this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio.
After joining leading golfers such as the world number one two Rory McIlroy and sports stars such as the West Indies cricket great Brian Lara at the Yas Links pro-am, he said: “As far as I can figure it out, it’s [doping] localised to Russia and there are some rumours over Kenya at the moment. There’s no doubt there’s lots of trouble, but that doesn’t mean the whole sport is corrupt full stop.
“I would still eat my hat if any of our British gold medallists from athletics from London 2012 were involved in any way. We still have got role models within the sport we can all look up to, so there’s cause for hope.”