Lord Coe Running Amuck

 Ovett  – a winner on the track and in the after-match

Would someone do the world a favour by sacking Lord Coe?  He is the current President of the IAAF. Problem is, he is running the organization into the ground (excuse the pun). He seems to manage the affairs of the IAAF according to his own arrogant idea of what’s right and wrong. Not that that should surprise anyone. When he was running I thought he was a self-important upstart.

Back in those days I used to travel around Europe with Alison and some other New Zealand runners. The competition between Coe and Ovett on the track might have been intense but back in the hotel Ovett was the personality winner every time. No wonder Ovett and Coe were rumored not to get on. Ovett was a bloody good bloke. In my opinion Coe was too self-important.

But what does my opinion matter? Coe has worked his way into the UK House of Lords and been elected President of the IAAF.  The same smarmy sucking-up to those in power that served him well in his PR battle with Ovett has been equally successful in his life after athletics. But is there clear logic and fairness in his decisions. No is the answer. In my opinion his decisions are bigoted and do a disservice to international sport. They reflect a mind that is convinced of its own superiority. What Coe thinks is good, in his mind, is good for everyone.

First, the case of South African 800m runner Caster Semenya. She won the 800m at the London and Rio Olympic Games. She also won the same event at the Berlin, Daegu and London World Championships. Obviously she is a very good runner. But Lord Coe is on her case. You see Caster Semenya was born with an abnormally high natural testosterone level, a condition called hyperandrogen. I fail to understand how Caster’s inherited testosterone talent is any different from the talents inherited by Coe, Ovett or Bolt. But Lord Coe doesn’t see it that way. Caster is female and doesn’t fit Lord Coe’s prejudiced view of what a woman should be like. I’ve no doubt Coe prefers the white, blonde feminine wall-flower sorts. So he set out to screw Caster’s athletic career. In April 2018, Coe announced rules that required hyperandrogenous female athletes to take medication to lower their testosterone levels, effective beginning in November 2018. Any respect I had for Coe’s career as an athlete disappeared.

Coe had no right to beat-up on an athlete for a talent she was born with. The whole point of track and field is to find out who in the world can run, or jump, or throw better than anyone else using only the trained talents they had at birth. Caster has only ever done that. Coe’s order to take drugs to lower her testosterone is just as objectionable as those who take another drug to boost their testosterone. Both are guilty of using drugs to alter their performance. In my book that order makes Lord Coe just as much a drug cheat as Ben Johnson.

Coe’s odd attitude towards women is highlighted in his strange personal life. If the rumours are right he was married and had four children with wife number one, had a fling with girlfriend number two and finally married a divorced mother of two. One of his sons from marriage number one was the best man at wedding number two. I have no idea what that was supposed to prove – possibly only that everybody loves Daddy Coe no matter how far or fast he has wandered.

But his most recent decisions affecting the IAAF Diamond League are really bad. Here is how they were reported by the BBC.

The number of events at Diamond League meetings will reduce from 32 to 24 next year, officials from the IAAF announced on Monday.

In a year-long review, the international athletics governing body also decided each meeting will scale down from two hours to 90 minutes.

There will be just 12 Diamond League meetings as opposed to 14, and only one season final from 2020.

And the longest distance track race will be 3,000 metres.

“We can make the Diamond League even stronger and more relevant to the world our athletes and our fans live in today,” said IAAF president Lord Coe.

The new season, which starts on 3 May in Doha, will be the 10th edition of the competition.

‘Alienating your audience’ – athletes and coaches express their frustration.

American athletics coach Steve Magness wrote on Twitter: “Way to shoot distance running in the foot. It’s a missed opportunity to figure out how to connect to the masses.

“Your most viable potential audience are the people who do road races, park runs, etc – 5k is a universally understood distance. Figure out how to connect versus alienating your audience.”

British distance runner Eilish McColgan, who reached the final of the women’s 5,000m at the 2016 Olympics, expressed her anger at the proposal.

Great Britain’s Dai Greene, a gold medallist in the men’s 400m hurdles at the 2010 Commonwealth Games and 2011 World Championships, was unhappy at the reduction in the number of Diamond League events.

He wrote: “It’s hard enough to get into top-scoring Diamond League events and in 2020 the IAAF are planning two less on the circuit.

“Getting into races is so often who you know, agents helping out their mates etc – and now this influences who attends a championship.”

I agree with the critics. Just because Coe has never liked anyone who runs around a track more than four times is no reason for the 5000 and 10,000 to be dropped from the Diamond League. The two races can be riveting drama. Dick Taylor’s 10,000 in Christchurch in 1974, Dave Bedford’s World Record 10,000 at Crystal Palace, London in the 1970s, Vladimir Kuts 10,000 at White City in London, Mo Farah’s 5000 in London, Billy Mills and Bob Schul in the 10,000 and 5000 at the Tokyo Olympics and a dozen others are as good or better than any 10 second flash in the pan.

I have no idea why athletic snobs treat distance events so badly. Swimming does the same thing. Open water 800m and 1500m are treated as second class citizens. I understand it coming from Cotterill, Johns and Francis. They don’t know any better – but Lord Coe certainly should.

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