Coe addresses low turnout at worlds, heat and doping scandal
IAAF President Sebastian Coe speaks during the opening ceremony for the World Athletics Championships on the Corniche in Doha, Qatar, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar).
Sebastian Coe has a concise message for athletes who are dissing on Doha: Deal with it.
The head of worldwide track and field says any athletes complaining about the hot temperatures and non-existent crowds at these world championships probably isn't making any other sort of headlines.
"Can I just be a bit blunt about this: The athletes talking about externalities are probably not the ones who are going to be walking home with medals from here," the IAAF president said Wednesday at the halfway mark of the championships. "I have much, much bigger commitments and visions for our sport than to turn and head for home because we take an event into an area that poses problems."
Coe also said the latest doping issue to cloud the action on the track — famed track coach Alberto Salazar's four-year doping ban , which led to his removal from the track meet on Tuesday — "doesn't derail the championships."
"We've been in business mode," Coe said.
That business at the moment is uncovering the next Usain Bolt heading into the Tokyo Games next summer.
Even better, multiple Bolts.
"I think it's unhealthy for a sport to have to rely over the long haul on one person," Coe said as the championships end Sunday. "It's pretty clear we've got some unbelievable young talent there. Do we have to do more to promote them? Absolutely. Do we have to build their profile over the next four years? Absolutely. ... We need that jaw-dropping talent to be more recognizable."
Some storylines are starting to surface. Noah Lyles, Christian Coleman, and Andre De Grasse are being billed as the next in line to fill the void left by the retirement of Bolt in 2017. The trio figures to be vying for medals in the 100 and 200 in Tokyo.
There's also Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas, who plans to run the 200 and 400 at the Summer Games. Or perhaps Donavan Brazier, the American 800-meter gold medalist who's a member of Salazar's Nike Oregon Project (but not coached by him). After news of Salazar's doping ban broke earlier in the day in a long pursued by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, Brazier was left to answer questions moments after winning his race.
Salazar's most-accomplished runner is Mo Farah, a four-time Olympic gold medalist from Britain. Asked if there was still a cloud over Farah, who parted ways with Salazar in 2017, Coe responded: "It's inevitable you guys are going to go on asking questions and the athletes are going to have to keep answering and the federations as well. The charges are serious and this will run and run.
"Mo is an outstanding athlete and as I said at the time, and I get asked the question, as I do regularly, should this athlete be with this coach?" Coe added. "I say the burden of proof can only be on malfeasance. If that's proven clearly they shouldn't and if there are questions that are being raised the athletes should ask really tough questions."
Other topics addressed by Coe:
— On Caster Semenya's absence from worlds and the IAAF testosterone rule that would have required her to medically reduce her natural testosterone level in order to compete: "The regulations were tabled and suffused in a concept that a level playing is really important."
— On the Russians competing as neutral athletes at worlds: "You've got 30 of them here. That's important."
— On the steamy conditions in road races (the stadium is kept cooler by an air-conditioning system): "It was a challenging climate. But the reality of it is we had a medical facility which I don't think I've ever seen in any championship — Olympics or world championships. I'd be surprised if you had the same facility in Tokyo. I hope they do, but this is something really special."
Coe became a bit defensive when asked if Qatar seemed like the right place to host the 2022 World Cup.
"Why would it be the wrong place?" Coe said. "I'm not sure any of us at this moment are in a position to want to make sporting relationships dependent upon current political fragilities."
One day, Coe envisions places such as Kenya, Ethiopia or Jamaica hosting a world championship. The organization is trying to reduce costs to make the championships more appealing to cities. The next version of worlds will be in Eugene, Oregon, in 2021.
"If we're a global sport, we have to be seen as global," Coe said. "It can't keep going back to the same eight or nine places that we've always sort of focused on in the past. But you won't get there in one jump.
"We're on a journey now."