SEBASTIAN COE, a proud son of Sheffield, is no stranger to success – and winning those races that matter most of all.
Britain’s greatest ever middle distance runner was the inspirational leader who masterminded the successful staging of the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.
Yet the peer’s latest role – he has been elected president of the International Association of Athletics Federations – is, possibly, his greatest challenge yet as he embarks upon a race against time to save his sport from being irrevocably tarnished by drug cheats.
It is a contest that the cleancut Lord Coe cannot afford to lose.
Once the purist of sports epitomised by the film Chariots of Fire, athletics is now as tainted as the Tour de France cycle race during the Lance Armstrong era because it has allowed the cheats to prosper – a cloud of suspicion will hang over many medal contenders at the supposedly showpiece World Championships which begin in Beijing this weekend.
It was not helped by Lord Coe’s regrettable reaction to recent revelations about industrial-scale doping. He regarded this expose as a “declaration of war’ by the media. It was not.
This was the final wake-up call to a sport in crisis that it needs to take decisive and immediate action to save its once cherished Corinthian values and ensure that competitors, like Sheffield’s golden girl Jessica Ennis-Hill, can compete on a level playing field.
Now he is in the ultimate position of authority, Lord Coe needs to lead from the front and impose life bans on the cheats.
Nothing less will suffice if athletics is to emerge from its greatest ever crisis of credibility.