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MONACO (Reuters) - Athletics is in "very, very difficult times" as it investigates allegations of widespread doping and cover ups in Russia, Sebastian Coe said on Monday.
"You have to say that the scope and scale of these allegations takes it beyond simply a competitor deciding to step beyond the moral boundary," said Coe, who last week launched his campaign to become next president of the sport's governing body the IAAF.
"This is not in every country of the world, there are 213 federations. But you do have to say a disproportionate amount of the reputational damage is in a relatively small number of countries, and I think we have to recognize this."
Coe, a double Olympic gold medalist, said he had watched the second part of the German TV documentary which has made the allegations.
The program by ARD-TV alleges doping and corruption which extends beyond Russia and the documentary implicates the IAAF in covering up the problem.
"They are very serious allegations," Coe, an IAAF vice-president, told reporters at the International Olympic Committee's Session in Monaco.
"The very fact that the allegations are in the public domain means that they are serious. So, we have to be very clear that this is a very, very difficult time for our sport."
Transcripts of the program had been sent to the IAAF Council, the body’s ethics committee which is investigating the claims, to the IOC and the World Anti-Doping Agency, Coe said.
The Russian Athletics Federation last week said it was considering legal action.
"The federation believe the documentary was a provocation aimed at discrediting Russian sport," its president Valentin Balakhnichev said in a statement on Friday.
"After watching the documentary we immediately began to doubt how authentic and believable the material they edited was. We see this film... as a planned attempt to create an ugly scandal within Russian athletics and Russian sport in general.
"We are looking at all our options to defend our rights. If it is possible under Russian and German law we will take the appropriate legal action for the slanderous allegations made against us," added Balakhnichev.
Sergey Bubka, one of the all-time greats of athletics, on Sunday said he was "deeply shocked" by the claims of systematic doping, and called on track and field to respond "quickly and transparently" to the apparent crisis.
Editing by Alan Baldwin