Jessica Ennis-Hill interview: Jury is out on Lord Coe as world athletics chief

Ross McLean
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Santander Cycles Expands To Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Ennis-Hill was in London yesterday to launch the extension of Santander Cycles to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (Source: Getty)

Olympic champion Jessica Ennis-Hill believes the jury is out on whether Lord Coe is the right man to lead reform of crisis-hit governing body the IAAF and clean up athletics.

A damning report into the doping crisis engulfing the sport published last week by the World Anti-Doping Agency’s independent commission concluded that “corruption was embedded at the IAAF”.

It also claimed that it was impossible for Coe – elected IAAF president in August after eight years as vice-president – and the rest of the IAAF council to have been unaware of the extent of doping within athletics.

Read more: The athletics scandal has no quick fix - Seb Coe must face up to a 10 year clean-up project

Despite the findings, commission chairman Dick Pound handed Coe a lifeline by naming him the best person to lead reform, yet Ennis-Hill is not prepared to give the double Olympic 1,500m champion her unconditional backing.

“He [Coe] has got a huge job on his hands and it’s hard to say one way or the other at the minute,” Ennis-Hill told City A.M. in London yesterday to launch the extension of Santander Cycles to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

“I think it’s for him to start making the changes, and have time to do that, and then such decisions can be made after that.

“Time is definitely the test. It’s a very big job and there is a lot to be done within the sport. He is the man in the position at the moment and it’s important to give him the time to see what changes he can make.

“So many depressing stories have come out and so much corruption has been uncovered. It needs to be addressed and hopefully it is being addressed. Even though it’s awful, these things need to come out for our sport to get back on its feet.

“It’s the level of corruption that has been uncovered within a federation which you believe is there to look after the sport and make sure everything is done properly, that is what hurts athletes the most.”

Despite the scale of corruption, which has seen Russia handed an indefinite ban from world athletics after a state-sponsored doping program was uncovered, Ennis-Hill retains faith that this year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro will be clean.

“Everything has come to a head now, although I’m sure there is more to come out which will be disappointing but that needs to happen,” added the heptathlete.

“By that happening and by those steps being taken you would hope that by the time we get around to the Olympics some drastic measures have been put in place so there aren’t athletes cheating.”

The 29-year-old won World Championship gold in August just 13 months after giving birth to her first child Reggie, and insists the innocent athletes who compete legitimately should not be lost in the mayhem of the scandal.

“I can understand that people at the moment look at the sport and feel very negatively,” said Ennis-Hill. “But there are amazing athletes that train incredibly hard and are true athletes and deliver true performances. They cannot be forgotten.”


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