Coe supports tough stance by IAAF in doping 'war'

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The Independent Online

Sebastian Coe last night backed the tough new stance international athletics is taking over doping.

Sebastian Coe last night backed the tough new stance international athletics is taking over doping.

The International Association of Athletics Federations announced at its council meeting in Helsinki that it will set up a new anti-doping department with its own budget and five new personnel in order to target both cheating athletes and suppliers.

Coe, an IAAF council member for 15 months, has taken a hard line against drugs since becoming the chairman of the International Olympic Comm- ittee's athletes commission 23 years ago.

The Balco scandal has kept the subject of drugs in the news, with the latest allegations being levelled at Marion Jones by the man who faces criminal charges for steroid trafficking, Victor Conte. Jones has consistently denied any wrongdoing.

Coe, explaining the initiatives, said: "It's a war. We shouldn't sit there sort of thinking these guys are slightly misguided. In the last year or two we've found a serious network of people who believe in a way which is absolutely unacceptable to our sport.

"I've always said I would rather face the short-term embarrassment of dealing with these issues now, whether it's an individual or federation level or an outside organisation. That's better than sitting here having to explain to parents who would have their kids coming into the sport why we don't seem to be dealing with it.

"This is not about about civil liberties. It's about protecting the 99 per cent of people who are in our sport for the right reasons."

Paula Radcliffe has called for drug cheats to be treated as criminals. "It not only cheats other athletes but promoters, sponsors and the general public. Being caught in possession of performance-enhancing drugs should carry a penalty.

"The current system does not detect many of the substances being abused. This means that often athletes do not know if they are competing on a level playing-field, if their hard work and sacrifice is being trumped. Often, when an athlete puts in a good performance, they are subjected to suspicions instead of praise. Having been on the receiving end I can testify as to how much this hurts and angers the athlete."

The IAAF stressed it would be increasing out-of-competition tests before next August's world championships in Helsinki. It insisted the championships would see the toughest- ever policy adopted.

"The principle has been taken to set some money aside," said Arne Ljungqvist, head of the IAAF's doping commission. "It will be primarily for joint funding of interesting research projects with the World Anti Doping Association... and for testing."