Gold medals easier to win than fan trust at world indoor athletics

Thu Mar 17, 2016 7:33pm EDT
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By Steve Keating

PORTLAND, Ore. (Reuters) - Winning gold medals will prove easier than winning back fan trust, admitted IAAF chief Sebastian Coe as he prepared to open the world indoor athletics championships on Thursday.

Bathed in brilliant sunshine while speaking to an enthusiastic crowd packed into Pioneer Courthouse Square, the International Association of Athletics Federations president could not escape the doping storm swirling around the sport and pleaded for patience as reforms are being implemented.

"We're not going to return to trust overnight, it is not a straight forward equation. You don't stick $10 in the slot machine and suddenly trust emerges in the tray," Coe told reporters following the presentation.

"This will take a long time. We cannot demand trust. It is not going to just return because people suddenly think we have got reforms in place but we do need to go through that process.

"You can't just sit there and say, 'Well it's down to one person.' Everyone has to make that journey together."

The road to recovery runs through Portland which will host the largest track and field competition of the year outside of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

More than 600 athletes from 150 countries will take part in the March 17-20 meeting but after a string of doping scandals there is concern that fans will be unable to trust that medal winners did so without the help of performance-enhancing drugs.

Russia, which traditionally battles with the United States to be the sport's dominant force, will not pose a threat in Portland having been banned from international competition by the IAAF after a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) investigation uncovered evidence of what it termed state sponsored doping.   Continued...

IAAF's President Sebastian Coe addresses the audience during his conference during the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) symposium in Lausanne, Switzerland, March 14, 2016.  REUTERS/Denis Balibouse