IAAF seeks to fill Nebiolo post

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The Independent Online

Facing a power vacuum after the death of Primo Nebiolo, track and field's leadership today prepared to take its first, tentative steps into a new era for the sport.

Facing a power vacuum after the death of Primo Nebiolo, track and field's leadership today prepared to take its first, tentative steps into a new era for the sport.

The 26 members of the International Amateur Athletic Federation's governing council arrived at the headquarters in Monaco with the issue of how to replace Nebiolo uppermost in their minds.

The all-powerful Italian, who died two weeks ago at the age of 76, never allowed a successor to emerge during his 18-year reign.

With no provisions for the death of a president in the IAAF's rulebook, the council's two-day meeting, which starts on Thursday, will kick off the process of succession.

IAAF senior vice president Lamine Diack, who as interim president will chair the council session, could stay on as head until the next congress in 2001. Another option for the council would be to call an earlier congress to elect a new president.

One senior IAAF official said that the council would need to "start from square one" to find a successor to Nebiolo.

At stake is one of the most powerful - and challenging - jobs in world sports: with current TV and marketing deals expiring in 2001, the IAAF requires a shrewd businessman. With no clear successor to Nebiolo, it needs a consummate politician to avoid a potentially-damaging leadership battle.

Candidates include Senegal's Diack, German Helmut Digel and Hungary's Istvan Gyulai who, as IAAF general secretary, was closest to the corridors of power in Monaco during Nebiolo's reign.

Nebiolo's enormous influence means that the power vacuum extends beyond the IAAF.

The Italian was also a member of the International Olympic Committee, and president of the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations, a body which he turned into a force in commercial negotiations with the IOC.

The IAAF council also needs to address doping disputes with the Cuban and Jamaican track federations.

High jump world record holder Javier Sotomayor and sprint star Merlene Ottey tested positively for banned substances but denied charges of doping - and were cleared by their national federations.

Backed by Cuban leader Fidel Castro, the country's track federation refused to suspend Sotomayor, whose urine sample showed traces of cocaine, claiming that the athlete was a victim of a political conspiracy.

Jamaica's federation cleared Ottey of using the performance-enhancing steroid Nandrolone.

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