IAAF to elect new president today
ATHLETICS legends Sergey Bubka and Sebastian Coe will go head-to-head today in their bid to become president of the sport's world body, with the winner facing a major overhaul to salvage the drug-tainted sport.
After months of criss-crossing the globe wooing support from the 214 member federations that make up the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), Bubka and Coe face the final act in a vast Beijing convention centre.
The 214 members will go to the ballot box to elect the successor to Lamine Diack, 82, the Senegalese who is stepping down after 16 years in charge.
"I am... confident of what we have in store, as neither of the candidates will find themselves in an unfamiliar environment," said Diack.
"I have laid the foundations for the future of the IAAF with our two great champions - whoever the IAAF athletics family elects, he will be a bona fide son of our sport."
Bubka won the Olympic pole vault gold in 1988 for Ukraine and was a 10-time world champion. Coe was a two-time Olympic 1,500m gold medallist for Britain in 1980 and 1984.
But the victor will be taking on the monumental task of rescuing the credibility and integrity of track and field, the biggest Olympic sport but still a minnow in global sporting financial terms.
The IAAF has, in recent weeks, been at the centre of allegations of widespread cheating, after British newspaper The Sunday Times said a leaked database of 12,000 blood tests from 5,000 athletes revealed "extraordinary" levels of doping.
The IAAF hit back at those allegations as "sensationalist and confusing". It also rejected later claims that it had suppressed publication of research that 29 to 34 per cent of the 1,800 competitors at the 2011 Daegu World Championships had violated anti-doping rules in the previous 12 months.
In much the same way as football's world body Fifa has been torn apart by allegations of corruption, with Sepp Blatter agreeing to stand down as president, the IAAF finds itself in turbulent waters.
Insiders predict a close contest, with hints that Coe may just have edged ahead of his rival.
Bubka, 51, who has been involved with the IAAF since 2001 and has served as vice-president since 2007, is standing for both the presidency and vice-presidency.
But 58-year-old Coe, who moved on from sports to become a Conservative politician in Britain before overseeing the highly successful London Olympics in 2012, is standing for just the presidency.
The manifestos of the two former stars are not strikingly different, though one major divergence is Coe's insistence on establishing an independent drug-testing body. Bubka would prefer to continue working with the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Coe reacted strongly after The Sunday Times and Germany's ARD claimed that more than 800 athletes had recorded suspicious blood tests between 2001 and 2012.
Bubka, however, avoided taking aim at the media, instead reiterating his calls for more transparency and admitting that the IAAF needed to be "more proactive".