Usain Bolt leads an overwhelming majority of clean athletes, and a series of recent doping cases is not damaging athletics, the president of the ruling body IAAF, Lamine Diack, says.
Diack said in an e-mail interview ahead of Saturday’s start of the World Championships in Moscow that the IAAF has been a pioneer in the fight against substance abuse and will continue to take appropriate measures against offenders.
American 100 metres season leader Tyson Gay and former 100m world record holder Asafa Powell recently failed tests, and so did Powell’s Jamaican compatriot sprinters Veronica Campbell-Brown and Sherone Simpson.
But Diack, an 80-year-old Senegalese who has presided over the IAAF since 1999, is not worried about the state of the sprint or the Olympic showcase sport in general.
“I do not believe that any doping issue ‘severely damages’ either the world championships or the sport of athletics because we are completely committed to fighting doping and have been at the forefront of the fight against doping for decades now,” Diack said.
“We have a serious, committed and successful anti-doping campaign which aims to have a sport which is worthy of athletes who play by the rules. So every positive case does not damage our sport but it makes it stronger,” he added.
Diack named the fight against doping “an eternal one” and added that “the absolute majority of athletes are clean - but those who aren’t are news, however unrealistic a picture this gives of our sport.”
“The men’s 100m has always had a powerful hold on the public and media and that means that the impact of a 100m sprinter testing positive is always more dramatic but it is not correct to single out any particular event,” he said.
Jamaican superstar Bolt has redefined the sprint with world records and 11 gold medals from the Worlds and Olympics so far, and Diack insisted that it was wrong to make him, and other fast men, suspects just because of their times.
“Usain Bolt is clean... most sprinters who run under 10 seconds are clean,” Diack stressed.
Doping has also made headlines in other parts of the world, such as in Turkey, championship hosts Russia, where several athletes including Olympic discus silver medallist Daria Pishchalnikova and the initial 2012 European 800m champion Yelena Arzhakova have been banned.
Diack said that Russian officials are taking the matter seriously and that their athletes are among the most tested in the world because the nation has the most athletes in the IAAF testing pool.
“It is a very good sign because it shows that positives are announced even for countries that are hosting our biggest event. I think you would be right to be more worried if there were no Russian positives in athletics,” Diack said.
The doping cases have not scared away sponsors, Diack added, as they see “the attractiveness, appeal and excitement” of athletics and recognise the IAAF anti-doping measures.
Diack also defended the marketing of the IAAF centred on Bolt as “a fact of life” because “the public, in all our research, loves the sprints.”
Diack will preside over the IAAF congress today and tomorrow in Moscow before his term ends in 2015 when a new president will be elected by the congress ahead of the World Championships in Beijing.Last updated:
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