Athletics: New IAAF head seeks `flexible' approach on drugs

A DAY before the International Amateur Athletic Federation council hears reports on the doping charges against Linford Christie, Gary Cadogan and the Cuban high jumper, Javier Sotomayor, the IAAF's new president, Lamine Diack, suggested a more flexible approach should be adopted to some drug cases.

He said: "We started the battle against doping and we continue to lead the struggle. Now the International Olympic Committee and governments are joining forces with us. But some cases are very iffy. Sometimes we will have to be lenient. We have to talk to the athletes, to listen."

Christie and Sotomayor firmly deny ever taking drugs.

Diack is acting as president of the IAAF until the next congress in 2001 after the death of Primo Nebiolo, who prided himself on leading the struggle against drugs. Under IAAF rules any athlete who tests positive must be banned and Diack said he was not planning to let up in the fight against drug taking. "If there is cheating in athletics there is no credibility. We have $1.2m (pounds 750,000) set aside in our budget for the battle," he said.

Diack endorsed Nebiolo's World Championship plan. "Primo Nebiolo knew that, if we could engage in long-term marketing and television contracts, it would be very beneficial," he said. "I expect the 2003 World Championships to be at the Stade de France, and 2005 to be at Wembley."

Wembley will not be completed until mid-2003. "It is simple," Diack said. "One city is ready, the other is not."

Diack, aged 66, a former French long jump champion, heralded a more collegiate approach to the IAAF. "The era of kings, dictators and popes is over," he said in a reference to his predecessor.

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