Sebastian Coe re-elected as president of World Athletics

BUDAPEST: Sebastian Coe, president of World Athletics since 2015, was on Thursday re-elected as head of track and field’s governing body on a third and final four-year mandate. The 66-year-old, a two-time Olympic 1500m champion for Britain in 1980 and 1984, stood unopposed in the vote of the World Athletics Congress in Budapest, two days ahead of the start of the world championships in the Hungarian capital. According to World Athletics rules, Coe will be unable to stand for a fourth mandate.

Coe, a former Conservative politician who headed the local organising committee of the 2012 London Olympics, took over the presidency of the then-International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) reeling from a corruption scandal involving ex-president Lamine Diack. Coe’s first two mandates saw the creation in 2017 of the Athletics Integrity Unit, an independent body overseeing anti-doping, and the reinforcement of World Athletics’ stance on Russia, first suspended over institutional doping and then again in 2022 over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

“The first four years of my mandate was making sure the ship didn’t sink. We were in a very serious position,” Coe said. The next four years, he added, were about dealing with issues such as Russia, protecting the female category and boosting one-day events. “The next four years will focus on what is the product that will future-proof the sport for the next 30 years,” he said, adding that decisions on competition would be data-based and not taken by presidential whim. Meanwhile said Thursday it was “unlikely” that track and field athletes from Russia and Belarus would be welcomed back to competition before next year’s Paris Olympics.

All Russian and Belarusian athletes have been banned from competition “for the foreseeable future” since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. That includes the option of competing as a neutral. “I don’t have a crystal ball, I follow world events in the same way that you all do,” Coe told journalists after his re-election as head of track and field’s world governing body. “Our position is very clear. The Council has made that position clear. The new Council—and I’m not going to speak for them in advance—but I would be very surprised if there is any shift in that position.

“We have certainty and we’ve done it for reasons of integrity of competition.” Coe added: “We will of course monitor that situation. “We have risk committees, we have working groups that will always be wanting to be across that and what might the circumstances look like if there’s any shift in the situation but I have to say that looks unlikely at the moment with where we are with events in Ukraine.”

International sports bodies are taking wildly varying stances on allowing Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete while the war in Ukraine continues. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) says it is yet to make a decision on whether Russians can compete at the Paris Olympics next year but it has recommended they return to competition. That stance has received a mixed welcome from federations, with Coe’s World Athletics among the most stringent of opponents to their return should the conflict continue. – AF[

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