London (AFP) – World athletics president Sebastian Coe refused to apologise on Wednesday for describing allegations of blood doping in his embattled sport as a « declaration of war ».
Coe, president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), made the remark in August after the Sunday Times and German broadcaster ARD claimed to have unearthed evidence of hundreds of suspicious blood samples.
An independent commission of the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) subsequently published evidence of state-supported doping by Russian athletes and a second WADA report is looking into allegations the IAAF covered up positive tests.
But asked if he regretted what he had said, Coe told the British parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport committee at a hearing in London: « I don’t step back from that.
« I’m sorry this has mutated into shorthand for an attack on the media. It was never that. I will die in a ditch for the right of media groups to challenge me, question my motives and call my sport to task.
« But the issue I took exception to was the very selective use of data that could not possibly be used in and of itself to prove positive tests, » he said.
However, when asked if he regretted his exact choice of words, he said: « I stick by the sentiments. I probably might have chosen different language. »
Coe cited women’s marathon world record-holder Paula Radcliffe as a « very good example » of someone who had been unfairly caught up in accusations of doping.
The IAAF said last week that Radcliffe was « entirely innocent » of doping, after she appeared to be implicated during a previous British parliamentary committee hearing.
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