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Sebastian Coe makes it official: He is candidate for president of track governing body IAAF

11/27/2014 09:05 EST | Updated 01/27/2015 05:59 EST
LONDON - Two-time Olympic middle-distance champion Sebastian Coe is running for president of track and field's world governing body, calling for a shake-up of the sport to attract young people, create more head-to-head competitions between star athletes and restore public confidence after years of doping scandals.

Coe declared his candidacy Thursday for the top job of the International Association of Athletics Federations, a decision that had been widely expected and sets up a likely election battle next year against pole vault great Sergei Bubka.

The 58-year-old Coe won gold medals in the 1,500 metres at the 1980 and 1984 Olympics and headed the organizing committee of the 2012 London Games. He has been an IAAF vice-president since 2007.

"As I speak to friends and colleagues around our great sport I appreciate that we are entering a very important time for athletics and that it is the right time to open up a discussion about the future," Coe said in a statement announcing his presidential bid.

"That discussion needs to focus on how we build on the many achievements of recent years, recognize that we have new challenges in a new era and how we can tackle those challenges with vision and ambition."

Coe is expected to face competition from Bubka, who won the Olympic pole vault gold medal in 1988 and broke the world record 35 times. The Ukrainian, who is also an IAAF vice-president, has not yet formally announced his candidacy to succeed Lamine Diack, who has been president since 1999.

The deadline for submission of candidacies is three months before the election, to be held Aug. 18 at the IAAF congress in Beijing on the eve of the world championships.

Coe set 12 world records during his career in the 800, 1,500 and mile, and retired from competition in 1990. He served as a Member of Parliament from 1992-97 and is the current chairman of the British Olympic Association.

Coe said he will release his election manifesto early next month.

"It will highlight the importance of our sport embracing innovation and change as we move forward," he said.

In an interview in Paris with the French sports daily L'Equipe, Coe said the format of IAAF competitions needs to be changed to make events more attractive to spectators and television viewers.

"Nine days for the world championships is very long for young people," he said. "And it's difficult to explain to people what's going on in the stadium in order to follow all the events."

Coe also said there are too many Diamond League meets and too few high-profile head-to-head events between the top names. The Diamond League, the sport's flagship series of one-day events, currently has 14 meets annually.

"The program is not flexible enough to put the best talents on offer," Coe said. "What will get my son to wake up before 11 a.m. on a Sunday morning? It's Federer vs. Nadal or Rosberg vs. Hamilton."

Coe also said the sport needs more street events like French pole vault world record holder Renaud Lavillenie competing in front of the Eiffel Tower and sprinters running along the River Tyne in Newcastle, England.

The sport must act to deal with a decrease in television ratings, Coe said.

"In Britain, we are lucky to have a great partnership with the BBC," he said. "But, globally, our window is shrinking. It's our task to make our product irresistible, vital even, for free channels."

The problem of doping has come to the forefront again after a series of positive tests in Kenya, home of many of the world's leading distance runners. Rita Jeptoo, winner of the last two Chicago and Boston Marathons, tested positive for EPO in September.

"Restoring confidence should be a pillar of our federation," Coe said. "Confidence is not negotiable. We spend hundreds of thousands of euros (dollars) in testing, but if we lose this battle, the sports will not survive."

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AP Sports Writer Samuel Petrequin in Paris contributed to this report.

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Follow Stephen Wilson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/stevewilsonap

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