• Athletics drug cheats will be ‘fearlessly weeded out’, says Coe
  • World Athletics president says system has restored confidence

Sebastian Coe has warned the biggest names in track and field that being “high profile no longer protects you from the investigative powers of the sport” – and predicted it will be harder than ever to get away with taking banned drugs at the Tokyo Olympics.

There has long been a suspicion that some countries have not done everything in their powers to catch their stars who cheat. However Coe, the World Athletics president, insisted things had now fundamentally changed and that drugs cheats would now be “fearlessly and ruthlessly weeded out” by the independent Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU).

Athletes need to understand why Russia is so important to the IOC

While Coe readily conceded it was not a good thing for the sport that its fastest man, the world 100m champion Christian Coleman, was serving a doping ban for missing tests, he said it showed the system was working.

“The AIU was a centrepiece in the reforms and that’s exactly why I pushed for that independent, dispassionate organisation that could remove the decision making from any undue political interference,” he said. “I like to think that it has shown the athletes that we’re not respecters or fearful of reputation. Where there is an infraction we’re not fearful of sitting there going: ‘Oh well that’s quite a big name.’

“The AIU is not always going to be on everybody’s Christmas card list, nor should they be. But I do think that it has restored some confidence among the athletes that we’ve got an organisation out there that will fearlessly and ruthlessly weed out the cheats when and where they surface.”

Coe said athletics now did more intelligence-led testing than any other sport – a fact that made him hopeful it will be harder than ever to cheat at the Tokyo Olympics.

Those comments will raise eyebrows in some quarters, given he also predicted before the London 2012 Olympics that it would be “the cleanest in history”. But Coe said he was confident that was the case. “Technology has improved, significantly even since 2012. Now, we’ve become much more sophisticated in the way testing takes place. It’s much more intelligence-led. And we’ve also got the AIU and that’s now 20-odd people with a good chunk of those people are sophisticated international investigators as well.

“I feel that I will be taking World Athletics as a federation to Tokyo with better systems in place than any other federation. I’m proud to be able to say that. And what I can say is if athletes do cheat there is a greater chance of them being caught in Tokyo than probably any previous Games.”

Coe also dismissed suggestions that the whereabouts system, under which athletes receive a two-year ban if they miss three drug tests in a 12-month period, was unduly harsh.

Coleman, for instance, was punished after a third missed test that came when he was on a shopping trip during a one-hour window when he had indicated he would be at home.

Coe said he was satisfied that the majority of athletes felt the system worked. “It’s clear, it’s not ambiguous, it’s not arcane maritime law. You’re asked to be in a particular place for a certain period, it’s one hour. Anybody complaining about not being able to master that technology seems to be updating Instagram pages by the hour.”


(Reuters) - The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) said on Thursday it will not sanction athletes for peacefully and respectfully demonstrating in support of racial and social justice at the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The USOPC's decision came in response to recommendations from an athlete-led council seeking change to Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter which prohibits any kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda.

"The USOPC values the voices of Team USA athletes and believes that their right to advocate for racial and social justice, and be a positive force for change, absolutely aligns with the fundamental values of equality that define Team USA and the Olympic and Paralympic movements," USOPC chief executive Sarah Hirshland said in a statement.

The Team USA Council on Racial and Social Justice said hate speech, racist propaganda and discriminatory remarks aimed at eliminating the rights and dignity of historically marginalised populations do not meet the requirements for ethical speech.

It also called on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and International Paralympic Committee (IPC) to recognise that protests focused on human rights and social justice initiatives do not qualify as "divisive disruptions" of the Games and should not be met with the same consequences as hate speech.

"The silencing of athletes during the Games is in stark contrast to the importance of recognizing participants in the Games as humans first and athletes second," the council said in its statement.

"Prohibiting athletes to freely express their views during the Games, particularly those from historically underrepresented and minoritized groups, contributes to the dehumanization of athletes that is at odds with key Olympic and Paralympic values."

The postponed Tokyo Olympics are now due to be held from July 23-Aug. 8 next year, while the next Winter Games are scheduled to be hosted in Beijing in 2022.

The 44-member Team USA Council on Racial and Social Justice, is comprised of 23 Team USA athletes, five Team USA alumni, five national governing body members, five USOPC liaisons, and six external members.

Among those on the council is former sprinter John Carlos, who was kicked off the U.S. team and sent home from the 1968 Mexico City Olympics for a raised-fist protest while on a medal podium amid the civil rights movement in the United States.

The gesture was rebuked as unpatriotic but Carlos and Tommie Smith, who also stood on the podium with a raised fist, have since received the USOPC's highest honor as they were inducted onto the organisation's Hall of Fame last year.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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World Athletics President Sebastian Coe underlined his support for athletes taking a knee at next year's postponed Olympic Games by giving the annual President’s Award to the trio who famously protested on the podium at the 1968 Mexico Olympics - Tommie Smith, Peter Norman and John Carlos.

"We created the President's Award in 2016 to recognise and honour exceptional service to athletics," said Coe during today’s World Athletics Awards, which were held virtually for the first time because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"The bravery, dignity and morality of these three men continue to inspire athletes from all sports 50 years on."

During the medal ceremony for the men’s 200 metres, gold medallist Smith and his fellow black American, Carlos, stood with heads bowed and a single black-gloved fist in the air to draw attention to the racism and inequality they saw back home and around the world.

They were supported by Australia’s silver medallist Norman, who died in 2006.

Norman stood with them wearing a badge on the podium in support of their cause, the Olympic Project for Human Rights, and is also credited with suggested Smith Carlos wear one glove each after Carlos forgot his pair.

It became the quintessential image of sporting protest, and on of the most famous in the history of the Olympics.

Athlete protests have been a key topic in recent months, with Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter coming under increasing scrutiny.

The second clause of the rule states: ""No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas."

Coe has previously said he would be supportive of athletes who wish to take the knee at the Games, an image that has become associated with the Black Lives Matter movement, although the International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach expressed a differing view in October, warning that the Olympics should not become "a marketplace of demonstrations".

Speaking today, Coe recalled that award ceremony on October 16 1968.

"The bowed respectfully as an Olympic official placed their medals around their necks, but when the anthem began to play they lowered their heads to protest the hypocrisy of a country that proclaimed to uphold freedom and human rights around the world but neglected to protect the rights of their black citizens…

"The moment of silent protest was caught on camera in a photograph we all know so well… it showed the solidarity of these three men - two black and one white - against injustice.

"Or, in John Carlos’ own words, 'in support of all the working-class people, black and white, in Harlem who had to struggle and work with their hands all day.'

"The image of Smith and Carlos raising fists has become seared in history as an incendiary act of protest by athletes.

"But sadly, their cause and what they so bravely stood for has not been consigned to the history books.

"As demonstrations around the world this year have shown, there is much more that needs to be done.

"I hope that the uncompromising attitude of these three athletes continues to be an inspiration to all of us who refuse to accept racism even while standing, or kneeling, in silence."

Speaking virtually from Atlanta today, Smith commented: "We had been put in that position by society, and the need to withstand pressures of a system that didn’t recognise everyone equal.

"And we did it from an athletic platform of courage and excitement and a need to provide an avenue for those who didn’t have one to go down this road headed towards that intersection that you have to choose.

"John and I had reached that intersection at that particular time and we had to have a direction to go.

"And we picked that direction because it was a needed direction not only by the athletes – and we were young athletes at that time – to do something that everyone would see, understand – I don’t know about the understanding, but they would see it and the judgement would be up to them.

"It was time, time for the athletes to stand up and fight."

After Coe had joined the live link, Smith thanked him for the award and for "giving the athletes, and especially the younger athletes, the pride in being themselves, the pride in having an opinion about things.

"Not that it’s necessarily going to go their way, but at least you give them a chance."

The IOC Athletes' Commission has been in consultation with athletes from across the world over the issue of Rule 50.

A series of athlete groups have outlined their views on Rule 50, with a proposal expected to be made to the IOC Executive Board later this month.

The Commission then hopes to finalise a Rule 50 recommendation in the first quarter of next year.

Carlos, along with the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee Athletes' Advisory Council, has called for the abolition of Rule 50.


Thomas Bach is set to be re-elected President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) unopposed next year after the organisation confirmed the German as the sole candidate for the role.

Bach, who became IOC President in 2013, confirmed he will stand for a second term during the virtual Session in July.

It had been widely expected that Bach would stand unopposed, and the IOC confirmed he was the only official to submit his candidature by yesterday's deadline.

Bach will be given a second and final term at the helm of the IOC at the 137th Session in Athens, set to take place from March 10 to 12.

The Session in the Greek capital is scheduled to be staged in person but Bach and the IOC have admitted it could be held virtually depending on the coronavirus pandemic, with options for the gathering of the IOC membership still being discussed.

Bach, the ninth IOC President, will finish his term in 2025 and will begin his last four-year stint at the helm of the organisation after the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics close on August 8.

"I am honoured and humbled by the fact that there are no other candidates," Bach said in a statement.

"I will continue to serve the Olympic Movement to the best of my abilities and will try to be a President for all the IOC members and the entire Olympic Movement."

The 66-year-old Olympic gold medallist in fencing became an IOC member at the age of 37 and served in numerous high-ranking roles, including a total of 11 years as a vice-president, before his elevation to the top job.

Bach was elected to succeed Jacques Rogge as IOC President at the Session in Buenos Aires seven years ago after triumphing in the second round of voting.

He received the most votes in the first round before defeating Puerto Rico's Richard Carrión, Ng Ser Miang of Singapore, Switzerland's Denis Oswald and Sergey Bubka of Ukraine in round two.

Bach has faced several challenges during his Presidency, notably the Russian doping scandal, a series of referendum defeats amid a decline in interest in hosting the IOC's flagship event and the first postponement of an Olympic Games.

He was President during the Sochi 2014 and Rio 2016 Olympic Games, both considered among the most difficult and problematic to have been held in recent memory, and will be President during the first Olympics to be postponed in Tokyo next year - if the event goes ahead.

Bach has also been criticised for centralising the power on the ruling Executive Board, but helped orchestrate the dual award of the 2024 and 2028 Summer Olympics to Paris and Los Angeles and oversaw the signing of a broadcast deal with NBC through to 2032.


The Members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) were informed today on behalf of the IOC Ethics Commission’s Chair, HE Ban Ki-Moon, by IOC Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer Pâquerette Girard Zappelli that President Thomas Bach will be the only candidate for the presidential election, which will be held during the 137th IOC Session in Athens in March 2021.

As decided by the IOC Executive Board, the elected President will take office after the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, which will take place from 23 July to 8 August 2021.

The length of the President’s first term of office is fixed at eight years. If re-elected, his term will end in 2025.

An Olympic champion at Montreal 1976 (fencing, men’s foil team), Thomas Bach was a founding member of the IOC’s Athletes’ Commission and became an IOC member in 1991. His full biography can be found here.