Fri | Aug 17, 2018

Editorial: Coe should move on

Published:Monday | January 18, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Dick Pound may be right about the level of corruption in the IAAF and its need for cleansing. But he is wrong about the choice of the man to do the job, although we are hardly surprised at his endorsement of Sebastian Coe. Lord Coe cuts the profile of the kind of people that Mr Pound seems to like.

The fact, however, is that despite Mr Pound's best efforts, Lord Coe can't reasonably be extricated from the mess in which the world athletics body finds itself. For to suggest that he was ignorant of the goings-on in the IAAF is to ask us to presume either a lack of curiosity, or intellectual slothfulness on the Englishman's part.

Jamaicans, of course, know Dick Pound well. He is a Canadian and former head of the World Anti-Doping Agency who many Jamaicans believed found comfort in highlighting weaknesses in Jamaica's drug-testing systems and, therefore, raising doubts about the authenticity of the performance of the island's athletes.

More recently, Mr Pound led a task force that investigated allegations that the IAAF failed to deal with systemic doping in some countries and that some of its officials, including the association's former president, Lamine Diack, members of his family, and their cronies, corruptly benefited from their actions. In Russia, where Mr Pound's report concluded that the problem was deep and rampant, athletes were said to have been extorted to hide their doping offences.

It was the wont of the IAAF to blame suspected doping on a handful of recalcitrant officials, but the Pound report said: "The corruption was embedded in the organisation. It cannot be ignored or dismissed as attributed to the odd renegade acting on his own. The IAAF allowed the conduct to occur and must accept its responsibility."

Which brings us to Lord Coe and his continued suitability to lead the IAAF, as Mr Pound suggests he is. Last summer, he succeeded Mr Diack, a Senegalese who now faces corruption charges in France and who served for 18 years as head of the federation. Lord Coe has not been personally accused of any dishonest behaviour, but for more than a decade, he was a member of the IAAF's council and was a senior figure in the organisation.




The report determined that it was unlikely that the council, on which Lord Coe sat, would have been oblivious to "the extent of doping in athletics and the non-enforcement of applicable anti-doping rules", or of the rank nepotism in the IAAF.

Yet when asked about the leadership going forward, Dick Pound responded: "There's an enormous amount of reputational recovery that needs to occur here, and I can't think of anyone better than Lord Coe to lead that."

In other words, he is prepared to give Lord Coe a pass, although he "was a member of a council that collectively did not do its job". Put another way, Sebastian Coe showed neither insightfulness nor will that would have caused him to question the mess of Mr Diack's leadership. Or worse, he was blissfully unaware of what was happening around him. That is hardly a recommendation for leadership.

Lately, Sebastian Coe has conceded that he is at the helm of a "failed organisation". People who help to break organisations are not the ones usually called on to fix them.