A New Road Forward

August 19th, 2015—

Immediately following the resignation and departure of former President Lamine Diack, Sebastian Coe is elected as President of the IAAF by a margin of 23 votes. Speaking before the 50th IAAF congress, Coe stated, "I am deeply honoured that our sport has placed its trust in me. There is no job I want to do more – nor with greater commitment.” Prior to this election, Coe served an eight year term as Vice President under former President Diack.

In light of his election, Coe sought to immediately reestablish and garner public trust and confidence in both the IAAF and international track and field as a whole. In doing so, Coe introduced a “road map” for achieving these goals. The two key intricacies of this road map state the necessity for “building trust in the governing body” and “building trust in competition.”

"Athletics must be a sport that athletes, fans, sponsors, media and parents alike know is safe to compete in..."

As the acting governing body for international track and field, the IAAF represents the standard for fair, open, and independent competition. As an organization who oversees officials, drug testing, and a multitude of financial and organizational affairs, a high degree of public trust in the IAAF is increasingly paramount. Per Coe’s roadmap, there are five critical components in rebuilding trust—

“Organizing the governing body so there are clear lines of responsibility, forensic review of operations and finance, greater accountability and vetting of IAAF officials, more transparency and communication from the independent IAAF Ethics Board, and rewriting the IAAF Constitution to make sure it is modern, fit for purpose and capable of delivering the guidance and protection that is required.”

In regards to rebuilding a public trust in international competitions and basic athlete standards, Coe establishes an additional five key components—

“Establish a separate integrity unit for athletics that ensures greater independences in reviewing key issues impacting upon the integrity of competition such as doping, corruption, betting and age manipulation, double the anti-doping budget ($4m to $8m), double the current international testing pool of athletes to one thousand athletes, dedicate greater resources to investigating doping schemes in athletics involving athlete support personnel, including employing specific investigative expertise within the integrity unit, and ensure greater accountability of Member Federations in anti-doping and other integrity-related matters, with closer monitoring by the IAAF and sanctions to be imposed by the IAAF Council for serious non-compliance (e.g. suspension from membership or ineligibility for major championships).”

This road map represents a pivotal moment for international track and field. In the midst of an unprecedented controversy, Coe and the IAAF must strive towards rebranding and reinvigorating their public image. Criticism of the sport—increasingly appropriate in its degree—has created an aura of ineptitude and failing loyalty. As a whole, a changing culture and public attitude has left track and field with an aging audience and a predictably diminished participation by future generations. In addressing these concerns, Coe stated—

“I am President of an international federation which is under serious investigations and I represent a sport under intense scrutiny. My vision is to have a sport that attracts more young people. The average age of those watching track and field is 55 years old. This is not sustainable”

Further stating—

“The key to making that vision a reality is creating a sport that people once more trust in. Athletics must be a sport that athletes, fans, sponsors, media and parents alike know is safe to compete in on a level playing field and one in which clean effort is rewarded and celebrated.”

Above all for Coe and company, trust and safety are key.

In conjunction with the road map presented by Sebastian Coe, UK Athletics presented its own recommendations for pursuing a change in international athletics and a revived trust in “clean athletics.”

Deemed the “Manifesto for Clean Athletics,” this UK document presents 14 proposals which would serve to protect the athletics community from future cheating and international scandals. As stated by Chairmen of UK Athletics, Ed Warner— “The integrity of athletics was challenged as never before in 2015.  Clean athletes and sports fans the world over have been let down. Trust in the sport is at its lowest point for decades.”

Amongst the 14 proposals outlined in the Manifesto are a call to “maintain a public global register of all drugs tests” and a requirement that all athletes participating in international competitions have a “valid blood/biological passport.”

Though these proposals are mere talking points, not judicial regulations, they represent a joint effort by the international community to ignite a debate and discussion on permanent regulatory changes. With the doping controversy nearing a likely peak, these proposals—and those by the IAAF—may prompt systemic and institutional changes within the international track and field.


Federations, I. A. (2015, August 19). Sebastian Coe Elected IAAF President. Retrieved from IAAF: http://www.iaaf.org/news/iaaf-news/sebastian-coe-elected-iaaf-president

Gibson, O. (2015, August 19). Sebastian Coe elected as president of world governing body for athletics. Retrieved from The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/global/2015/aug/19/sebastian-coe-elected-iaaf-president-after-beating-sergey-bubka-in-vote

International Association of Athletics Federations. (2016, January 5). Rebuilding Trust. Retrieved from IAAF: http://www.iaaf.org/news/press-release/rebuilding-trust-road-map-2016