On Wednesday, Lord Coe, President of the IAAF, will recieve a grilling in Parliament like few others before him.
The chatter about media for the past few days has been intense. So much vitriol has been expended by both sides right now, few may recall what is actually at stake.
In my mind, the future of the sport is what is at stake.
In the past month, we have seen the world’s second most popular sport and the Olympics most popular sport (just check the attendance figures from London) called on the carpet.
Under Primo Nebiolo, the sport went from a nice traditional sport, to a sport with bi annual World Championships and a significant amount of money. Not the money of football, but athletics went from a few wads of cash given out under the table, to a few athletes making millions of dollars. And a stinky drug problem.
Under Lamine Diack, we may have Potemkin’s village. A robust sport on the outside, with huge participation figures among youth, and exciting new talents from around the world, but with extortion and bribery calling everything into question.
Under Seb Coe, we have a man who is being called on the carpet for the sins of his predecessors. That Lord Coe, in a style that can only be described as patrician, was the hero of a generation of athletics fans and the man who delivered London 2012 is not lost on the MPs who will question him tomorrow.
Seb Coe is being blamed for everything but global warming. His eight year position as a VP means, according to some, that he had to know about the “passive corruption” of Lamine Diack and the not so passive corruption of Papa Diack, Lamine Diack’s son.
Common sense would suggest that cheaters and extortionists do not share their exploits with the hoi poloi.
Of course there will be questions about Seb Coe knowing anything on Paula Radcliffe’s ordeal. Big difference between hearing about things and influencing things.
And of course, there will be questions about what influence Seb Coe had on the Eugene 2021 decision.
Papa Diack was more than a rumor. However, not sure really what Coe could have done while President Diack was in power. In a recent Channel 4 interview, Coe, who was pummeled by the TV commentator, continued to respond that he (Coe) really could not do anything until he took the reigns of power.
Between the MPs and British media, Lord Coe will be bloodied. But, I am not sure that really matters.
My question is, if I had the chance to ask it, is if Seb Coe is still committed, after all of the attacks to focus on cleaning up the sport he loves?
In the end, that is all that matters.
People around the world hold the sport of athletics at a higher level still than most pro sports. That is why the extortion, the doping and the scandal around the giving and taking of Championships is so distressing.
I am not looking for sainthood in a leader. I want a man or woman who understands that change starts with small steps. An example of a small but significant step was giving up an Ambassador’s role at Nike.
That was a good first step for Lord Coe.
Now, for the tough stuff…