Kenya says yes as Coe IAAF reforms sail through
After a week of intrigues, Lord Sebastian Coe scored a major victory when the IAAF Council overwhelmingly voted to adopt his key reforms in a sport battling to restore credibility on Saturday.
It represented a turning point for athletics, a sport struggling to find a niche in the modern era with declining interest worldwide accelerated by the widely reported doping and corruption scandal echoing across the globe to date.
Coe, the British former Olympics and world champion saw his proposals to change the governance of athletics voted for by a resounding 95 percent of the Council delegates who make up the powerful governing organ of the sport in Monaco, Monte Carlo.
Kenya was among the nations that voted yes as the reforms sailed through 182-10 with Athletics Kenya (AK) President, Lt.Gen (Rtd) Jackson Tuwei bearing the nation’s vote with Vice-president Jinaro Kibet and acting CEO, Susan Kamau rounding the delegation in Monaco.
Those that voted no were Benin, Bahrain, Chad, Gambia, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Laos, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Thailand.
Sprint powerhouses Jamaica, Ukraine, his predecessor Lamine Diack’s home nation Senegal, Uzbekistan and Oman abstained.
“We must protect our sport. We must put in place the structures that will keep our sport and athletes safe on and off the field of play, in and out of the stadium.
“It is bad enough that any of this happened once but it cannot happen a second time. Not on our watch and not on anyone else’s watch. We have to step up and ensure the walls are never too high again and that checks and balances are in place and working,” the IAAF chief remarked.
It capped months of lobbying and backroom dealings that saw Coe embark on a whistle-stop tour of the six continents urging affiliate leaders to accept to change the governance structures of the sport.
It all came to a head in the IAAF Athletics Awards 2016 week when the delegates converged at the French Principality of Monaco, Monte Carlo for Saturday’s vote.
The key pillars of the reforms will see the establishment of the independent Integrity Unit to oversee the entire anti-doping process from testing, results processing and any appeals in much shorter time as opposed to the existing practise where national federations were tasked with implementing doping control.
The other key foundations are giving athletes a greater say in running the sport than ever before, ensuring total gender parity and establishment of innovative events in the athletics calender to attract a disenfranchised young generation to the sport.
Citizen Digital has been in Monaco for most of the Awards and Council Meeting week and managed to understand the intrigues that precluded Saturday’s crucial vote whose outcome is a ringing endorsement of the Lord Coe administration which started in the summer of 2015.
Since his election, the former world 800m record holder has embarked with zeal to dissociate athletics from his predecessor Diack who is facing charges of corruption and subverting the anti-doping process in France.
While he was emphatic on Thursday Diack would remain the President of the International Athletics Foundation (IAF) until found guilty of charges levelled against him, Coe was keen on drawing a line on the Senegalese leader’s modus operandi.
Delegates who were used to largesse during the Council Meeting and Gala week were stunned when they arrived in Monte Carlo to find austerity measures in place.
Gone was the limousine service that used to shuttle them around Monte Carlo and instead everyone was packed into shuttles regardless of standing.
At Friday’s Gala night, there was no customary seven-course dinner, paid up performances from internationally acclaimed musicians or hefty allowances and large entourages they were accustomed to under Diack.
In came a budget Gala ceremony where only cocktails were served before and after the fete with delegates having to do with regular meals and downscaled hotel accommodation throughout the week.
Hours before the Gala, the IAAF announced their long-standing relationship with kit sponsor, Adidas had elapsed three years early over integrity issues.
In short, the Coe administration was sending a powerful but subtle message the sport was facing a cash-crunch and could not afford to resist reform and the delegates took cue to pass the proposals with little resistance.
On the sidelines of the Gala where Jamaican Usain Bolt and Ethiopian Almaz Ayana were named the IAAF Male and Female Athletes of the Year, Citizen Digital witnessed first hand the power-play machinations on the eve of the vote.
There were concerns at the highest echelons of Coe’s administration that African delegates who are significant in number with 54 member Federations would vote en masse to reject them.
They were seen as the biggest beneficiaries of Diack’s lavishness and excesses besides their perceived contempt of how the long serving Senegalese leader and his contemporaries such as the late AK President, Isaiah Kiplagat were treated once Coe ascended to power.
Africa resoundingly voted for Coe at the 2015 Congress in Beijing and with Kiplagat for instance seconding his candidature but the Briton has moved to dissociate himself with long-serving leaders and instead fanned the flames of change sweeping African federations with the recent election of distance-running legend, Haile Gebrselassie as Ethiopia Athletics Federation president a case in point.
Citizen Digital reliably learnt intense last-minute lobbying to whip African delegates went on deep into the night and eventually, Africa joined the rest of the continents to endorse the radical shake-up.
According to those in the inner circle of the Coe administration, the Briton was ready to step down had the proposals fallen through, leaving the sport in a financial rut that would have brought it to its knees.
With the exit of Coe and impending retirment of Bolt, who is held as the advocate of clean athletes and the biggest financial draw in the sport on the planet next season, the most popular sport at the Olympics would have certainly sunk.
With Europe and America the largest financiers of athletics, Coe’s exit had the reforms not been accepted could have potentially hammered one of the last nails in its coffin.
Other reports within the corridors of Monte Carlo Bay and Fairmont Hotel where the delegates were housed talked of differences between Coe and Bubka-the Ukrainian Pole vault world record holder who is his vice-president- came to the fore when the latter’s nation abstained from the vote.
Last year, Coe canceled the Gala altogether as the sport was reeling from a corruption and doping crisis that saw capital flight never witnessed in recent times from the sport.
Speaking at the Gala, both Coe and IAF Patron, His Most Serene Highness, Prince Albert II of Monaco alluded to the debilitating effects of the scandal as they painted a bright future if the reforms were pushed through.
The siege mentality they passed on to delegates who were still coming to terms with the limited spending at the annual Congress/Gala week convinced most delegates to either be on the right side of reforms or face the prospect of holding on to a broke sport.
Under the new proposals, the determination of doping cases such as that of Rita Jeptoo will not take months or years meaning results, prize monies, medals etc will be stripped and redistributed faster.
National federation bosses will no longer have influence over deciding sanctions with some including here in Kenya accused of subverting the process by demanding bribes from drug cheats to shelve or shorten bans.
Voting cards distributed: 197
Valid votes: 192
Special majority: 127
That the constitution of the IAAF currently in force be amended by revoking it in full and replacing it with the following constitutions:
a. The constitution circulated on 2 September 2016 entitled “2017 Constitution”, which shall take effect on 1 January 2017; and,
b. The constitution circulated on 25 November 2016 entitled revised proposed “2019 Constitution”, which shall take effect from 1 January 2019, and replace the 2017 Constitution with effect from that date, except to the extent specified in the revised proposed 2019 Constitution.
-Additional material from iaaf.org used in this report