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Lord Coe lashes out at Enhanced Games dopers and says: ‘It’s b------s’

Sebastian Coe, World Athletics president, attends the World Athletics Indoor Championships Glasgow press conference in Glasgow, Britain, 29 February 2024
World Athletics president Lord Coe has given short shrift to the idea of a rival to the Olympic Games that allows athletes to dope - Shutterstock

Lord Coe, the president of World Athletics, has dismissed as “b------s” the idea for a rival ‘Enhanced Games’ that will allow doping, but the British Olympic legend is promising a major programme of innovation in the sport.

Proposals from Word Athletics to trial a new long jump format, where leaps are measured from a take-off zone rather than a fixed point, have come under fire in recent weeks, but Coe says that the organisation must respond to how people now consume sport.

An even more controversial idea from well outside any traditional sporting governing body is for a new competition during non-Olympic years that would operate outside the World Anti-Doping Agency code.

The Enhanced Games concept, which has been labelled “dangerous and irresponsible” by WADA, is attracting the interest of athletes according to its founder, the Australian businessman Aron D’Souza.

“It is unfortunate that our Olympians earn so little,” D’Souza said. “There are a lot of athletes who are going to compete at the Paris Olympics, including some of the top Team USA track and field athletes who have reached out to me.

“Because, let’s be honest, they’re flipping burgers to provide for themselves, and financially it just doesn’t work for them.”

Coe, a double Olympic 1500m champion, is distinctly unimpressed. Speaking on the eve of the World Indoor Athletics Championships, which begin in Glasgow on Friday, he said: “It’s b------s, isn’t it?

“There’s only one message and that is if anybody is moronic enough to feel they want to take part in that, and they are from the traditional, philosophical end of our sport, they will get banned. They will get banned for a long time.

“I’m sure there are crazy things happening in other sectors. We occasionally get them – I really don’t get sleepless nights over it.”

‘We have a responsibility to future-proof the sport’

Coe’s team at World Athletics have been analysing data from the successful World Championships in Budapest last summer and have already disclosed plans to try out a new long jump format after finding that a third of all jumps were fouls.

They want to improve fan engagement in field events but the idea of having a take-off zone in order to reduce the number of fouls has been criticised for devaluing one of the sport’s most critical skills.

Carl Lewis, the quadruple Olympic long jump champion, called it an ‘April Fools’ joke.

World Athletics has stressed that it is only one of many ideas, which would have little prospect of being formally introduced until at least 2026, but Coe is adamant that change is now imperative.

British Athletics is in financial crisis after huge reductions in its commercial and broadcast income.

“Our sport is 150 years old – there are elements that are sacrosanct,” Coe said. “There is stuff there that leaves people a little cold. We did a lot of research off the back of the Budapest games.

“This isn’t anti-field events – we are trying to make sure both elements move forward at the same pace. I’m not saying it’s the only remedy [but] we are not going to back off innovation. We have a responsibility to future-proof the sport.

“It is going to change. The holy grail of every sport is to remain salient, interesting and exciting to young people.

“We have to recognise that the way people consume sport, the way they consume entertainment, is different than even three years ago.”

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