British middle-distance great Sebastian Coe has said the creation of an independent anti-doping agency in athletics can help the sport in its battle against drug cheats.

Coe, a candidate for the presidency of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the sport‘s global governing body, said such an independent body would ease the workload of both the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and national athletics associations.

“For many federations this is a very onerous burden,” Coe told international news agency reporters in a conference call on Wednesday, as he again insisted the IAAF was fully committed to weeding out blood doping and other forms of drug cheating, contrary to recent media allegations. 

“It is costly it ties them up often in expensive litigation,” said Coe. 

“You guys (the press) sit there not really understanding and quite rightly, questioning, the speed and length of time it takes between a positive sample and a sanction.

“It is really important we close down at every opportunity the perception that in some way what we are doing is mired in conflict.”

Coe, the Olympic 1500m champion at both the 1980 and 1984 Games, is standing against Ukrainian former pole-vaulter Sergey Bubka in the race to succeed Lamine Diack as IAAF president, with an election scheduled for August 19 on the eve of the World Championships in Beijing.

The vote comes against the backdrop of allegations made by Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper and German broadcaster ARD that, based on a leak from the IAAF database, a third of medals in endurance races at Olympics and world champions from 2001-2012 had been won by athletes with suspicious blood readings.

Meanwhile Coe counselled “caution” to any athletes feeling compelled to follow the example of Olympic 5,000 and 10,000m champion Mo Farah, who plans to publish his own blood date in a bid to show he is a clean competitor.

“I would hate them to feel they are under pressure to do this because if they don’t there is somehow an assumption they are guilty,” Coe said.

Coe also said that Justin Gatlin, one of the favourites for the 100m in Beijing — along with Usain Bolt — after running the fastest time this year (9.74sec) would have to be treated like any other eligible competitor even though the American, the 2004 Olympic champion, served a four-year ban from 2006-2010 after testing positive for testosterone.

“Justin Gatlin is eligible to compete. If you are saying to me would I rather not have athletes that have served bans competing in major championships, the answer is probably yes,” said Coe. 

“But he is eligible to compete and he should be given the respect as a competitor who is eligible to compete.” – Agence France-Presse

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