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Coe rejects claims he misled committee

Former London 2012 chief: “We’ve read the report and absorbed it and I did not mislead the committee.”

Lord Coe believes his answers to a select committee hearing on doping were misrepresented in a highly critical parliamentary report published on Monday, it is understood.

The report, written by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee, accused the president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) of “misleading” them when he appeared before the panel in December 2015.

This claim is based on his answers to questions about what he knew of Russia’s systemic cheating and corruption within the IAAF before those twin scandals became public knowledge from late 2014 onward.

The report said it “stretches credibility to believe” he was not at least partly aware of the main allegations against his predecessor as IAAF president, Lamine Diack, before the veteran Senegalese administrator was arrested by French police in late 2015.

It also said it was “disappointing” that Coe, a double Olympic champion and former Tory MP, missed chances to learn of Diack’s complicity earlier and heavily criticised his overly defensive response to reports of athletics’ doping problems.

“These are matters of the greatest seriousness and affect the reputation of both the IAAF and Lord Coe,” it said.

The 61-year-old Englishman, though, is understood to be deeply annoyed by these comments and will convey this to DCMS committee chairman Damian
Collins in a letter.

At a press conference on Tuesday in Birmingham, where the IAAF Council met following this weekend’s World Indoor Championships, Coe rejected the claim he misled parliament and denied that he or his sport’s reputation was damaged.

The former London 2012 chief said: “We’ve read the report and absorbed it and I did not mislead the committee.”

When asked if it had damaged his reputation, Coe said: “No. I cannot account for answers that have been attached to different questions.”

This was a reference to his belief the committee has conflated his answers on two distinct topics: when he learned about Russia’s state-sponsored doping programme and when he found out Diack had been blackmailing Russian athletes who had tested positive.

Coe has repeatedly said that he did not know the details of the former until a German documentary first revealed them at the end of 2014, and discovered the latter when Diack was arrested – three months after Coe had lavishly praised him at the IAAF Congress in August 2015.

The MPs on the committee, however, have struggled to believe that Coe, an IAAF vice-president since 2007, could be so unaware of what had been happening under his nose, particularly when London Marathon director Dave Bedford made a concerted effort to bring his attention to it all in mid-2014.

Coe restated his position on the Bedford warning at the press conference on Tuesday: he does not use a computer so simply asked his office to forward Bedford’s email to the IAAF’s ethics board, without looking at it.

Asked if he understands why some people struggle to believe that, Coe said if there were still people who do not accept the fact that he does not “own a computer or pore over email attachments” then there is nothing more he can add.

In summary, he said he wants the same things as the committee, “which is the eradication of doping in sport and a road map to that”.

He added: “We should take stock. There’s a lot more to be done, but this sport is not in tatters – it’s strong.”

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