Sebastian Coe – one of the men bidding to lead the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) into a new era – was in Costa Rica on 6 August as part of his campaign for the top job. At the same time, he was playing down accusations of widespread doping among athletes and calling for the establishment of a values commission to curtail drug use.
Coe's visit to Costa Rica comes after damning reports in British newspaper The Sunday Times and by German broadcaster ARD/WDR which accused the IAAF of failing to investigate hundreds of "suspicious" drug tests between 2001 and 2012. But the British Olympian said the majority of athletes agree that the sport must remain clean.
"The sport has always had a non-negotiable view on this," he said. "I've been involved in track and field for 45 years, and I know that the vast majority of athletes that I competed with from my club right the way through to an Olympic stadium take exactly the same view.
"We have to utilise every ounce of technology that is available to us because our challenge is always to protect the rights of the clean athletes to compete knowing that they are competing on a level playing field, that every athlete starts out equally with an opportunity to win or to lose. We need to make sure that we have systems in place and a culture that remains absolutely non-negotiable about the importance of keeping our sport clean for the athletes."
Coe and fellow Olympic champion Sergey Bubka are the only two candidates for the presidency of the IAAF, with the vote due to take place on 19 August. Both men have touted different approaches to tackle the IAAF's doping accusations, with Coe calling for the establishment of a values commission to recruit young people to tackle drug use.
"One of my proposals is to set up a values commission that will allow young people to understand about the history of their sport, the tradition of their sport," Coe said. "And if they look back at the history and the tradition of their sport they will also understand that athletes like me and athletes like Michael Johnson, Sir Roger Bannister and Herb Elliot competed at a very high level and did not need to fall back on measures that lacked integrity.
"And this is really important, that young people understand what the moral framework is and that is why the creation of a values commission that will be in large part shaped by young people I think will make an important addition to the weaponry that we have available to us."
The two news organisations making the claims said they had obtained "secret" test data from the vaults of the IAAF, supplied by a whistle-blower disgusted by the extent of doping in track and field.