BERLIN (Reuters) - The German reporter who sparked a doping storm engulfing athletics hit back on Thursday at accusations from Britain’s Sebastian Coe, who is bidding for the sport’s leadership, that his report was “a declaration of war” on athletics.
Hajo Seppelt, of German network ARD, teamed up with Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper to produce a damning report accusing the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) of failing to investigate hundreds of what they called “suspicious” drug tests between 2001 and 2012.
The report raised new questions about the sport just weeks before the Aug. 22-30 world championships in Beijing and Coe, who is seeking to become the IAAF’s new president, responded with an impassioned defense of athletics, attacking “the betrayal of the last few days of our sport”.
Seppelt hit back at the double Olympic 1500 meters champion Coe, who hopes to succeed long-serving IAAF president Lamine Diack in August.
”This smells like a cheap election maneuver to align the voters at the IAAF Congress behind him,“ the German reporter told Reuters. ”The man is apparently no different to many other sport officials.
“Is Mr Coe in a position to make better evaluations than the world’s leading blood doping scientists?”
Coe declined to comment on Seppelt’s remarks when questioned by reporters on Thursday in Costa Rica.
But he underlined that he and “the vast majority” of people involved in athletics were opposed to doping.
“Of course we have to utilize every ounce of technology available to us, because our challenge is always to protect the rights of the clean athletes to compete knowing that they are competing on a level playing field, that every athlete starts out equally with an opportunity to win or to lose,” Coe said.
Earlier, a spokesman for Coe had referred Reuters to his column in Thursday’s Daily Telegraph.
“In less than two weeks I will be standing for the IAAF presidency but let me be clear that this is not electioneering,” Coe had written.
”Whether there is an election or not, I will always come to the defense of my sport when it is being treated unfairly.
”The very fact that I am standing for the presidency is because I have been in the sport for 45 years and I know that the vast majority of people in the sport have an absolutely non-negotiable stance on drug abuse.
“For us to be portrayed as a sport that plays fast and loose with these ethics is just wrong.”
Seppelt said that since March this year, ARD had asked Coe several times for interviews for his documentary but added that the chief organizer of the 2012 London Olympics had not taken up the opportunity.
“When I personally spoke to Coe on one occasion, he hung up and rejected any conversation,” Seppelt added.
Sergey Bubka, the 1988 Olympic pole vault champion who is going head-to-head with Coe to become IAAF president, has said the sport should be more transparent.
Reporting by Paul Carrel; Additional reporting by Enrique Pretel in San Jose, Costa Rica; Editing by Erik Kirschbaum and Ian Chadband