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Dublin: 6 °C Tuesday 11 December, 2018
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There are no protections in place for clean athletes to expose dopers - Mark English

The Donegal runner admits Seb Coe’s IAAF presidency has been ‘frustrating’.

Despite athletics' troubles, Mark English sill believes in can instil passion in fans and runners.
Despite athletics' troubles, Mark English sill believes in can instil passion in fans and runners.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

IT WOULD BE an understatement to say that Sebastian Coe’s time as president of the IAAF has been incident packed.

Since beating Sergey Bubka to the role by 115 votes to 92 back in August 2015, Coe has faced questions over his relationship with Nike and the decision to award that same company’s home base in Oregon the 2021 World Athletics Championships without the normal business process.

Most damningly for the former Olympic gold medallist, a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) report found that Coe “could not have been unaware” of the extent of doping in athletics during his time as a board member with the IAAF and the subsequent cover up of the same, particularly in relation to Russian athletes.

A few days later, head of WADA Dick Pound may have saved Coe’s job by saying that, while the IAAF was an “organisational failure”, the 59-year-old was still the right man for the job.

His tenure, though still in it’s infancy, has represented a frustrating time for athletes, particularly those who know they’re racing against cheats.

For Donegal’s Mark English, each new scandal and revelation causes him to fall a little more out of love with the sport. 

“It’s hard to have to have faith in somebody who was either naive not to see what was happening in the IAAF or, well, I think most people feel it’s high time he gets into gear and does something about (doping).

“There’s a lot of us athletes who are training 360 days as year and we all know who the cheats are. We can’t come out and name them, for obvious reasons, but it’s frustrating that the IAAF didn’t do their best to rid our sport of cheats.

It was very frustrating to read all the cover up reports and to hear people were getting away with it. I’ve spoken out before about this but, at the end of the day, I can’t keep opening up the papers and reading these Doomsday reports because the more I read it, the more I lose my passion for the sport so I do kind of sideline it a bit and try focus on the training.”

While a proven cheat like Tyson Gay can have his suspension reduced for providing athletics’ governing body with information on cheats, the 2015 European indoor silver medallist says there is no facility in place for clean athletes to become whistleblowers but he’s certain there should be.

“Yeah, definitely. I’d love to know if Seb Coe has contacted the Stepanov’s who contributed to the whole story breaking. I’d just love to know what protection is there for the likes of those athletes.

“It’s whistleblowers who are going to make the sport cleaner and it’s athletes speaking out who will bring about change but if there’s no protection then there are just too many dangers and people won’t speak out.

“There’s a lot of reasons athletes don’t speak out and it’s not because they’re dirty or anything, there’s just so many other things in play and if there was some sort of body there to protect them, even in they were to say ‘here’s a hotline, ring this hotline with information and tell us everything you know and we’ll investigate it further’ but there’s nothing like that, at least that I know of.

“There needs to be a lot more done and I very much hope some sort of independent anti-doping body is brought in, is fully funded and is able to do their job.”

Vitaly Stepanov and his wife Yuliya had to flee Russia with their son over fears for their safety once they revealed the true extent of their country’s doping problem. But all clean athletes know the ones that are cheating, especially when they’re suddenly losing to runners they were beating easily before.

Mark English Mark English is a member of the Sky Scholarship Programme. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

After a race this week, the 22-year-old’s first of the 2016 season as he takes the first steps on a path that will hopefully end in an Olympic final, English and some of his fellow competitors discussed one such athlete.

“In Dusseldorf, I was talking to a lot of the athletes who were there and we were talking about one particular runner who we used to beat easily and suddenly he’s just — as Adam Kszczot said — he’s moved up three levels which you just don’t do, particularly in 800m.

“I’m obviously not going to mention his name but it’s very frustrating and I don’t know what doping systems are like in the countries these athletes live in but, if there were an independent body able to go into these countries, didn’t have any blocks like trying to get visas, etc, that’s what we really need to try tackle this.”

On a more positive note, English still says athletics has the ability to bring joy to both runners and fans.

“I still think athletics can instil a lot of passion in people that watch it and that’s the important thing about it.

I still have a love of the sport and I hope that our performances out in Rio can inspire the younger athletes to stay involved with it and I know there’s a lot of negativity out there but there’s still a lot of beauty in the sport too.

“I think Thomas Barr and myself are both capable of making the finals in Rio. Obviously it’ll be tough, I finished 1oth and Thomas 11th at the World Championship so, there’ll be a lot of challenges but hopefully we can get it done.”

Mark English is supported by the Sky Academy Sports Scholarship scheme, helping young athletes fulfil their potential on the international stage and achieve their goals for Rio 2016: skysports.com/scholarship

Please note, this interview was conducted on Thursday before news broke of an alleged Chinese doping regime that might see Sonia O’Sullivan elevated to the gold medal position in two races from the 1993 World Championships.

‘I’d be surprised if two gold medals turn up’ – Sonia O’Sullivan on Chinese allegations

Sonia O’Sullivan could be in line for World Championship medals after Chinese drug revelations

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About the author:

Steve O'Rourke

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