Seb Coe has warned any Tokyo-bound drugs cheats that they are more likely to be busted than at any previous Olympics.
The president of World Athletics spoke out in the wake of world 100m champion Christian Coleman being handed a two-year ban for breaching anti-doping “whereabouts” rules.
The American has appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), but Lord Coe says the case sends a clear message to all that no athlete is “too big” to be brought to justice.
“I like to think we’ve shown the athletes that we’re not respecters or fearful of reputation here,” he said.
“Where there is an infraction we’re not fearful of sitting there going ‘oh, that’s quite a big name’. It’s clear cut.
“Which is why I pushed for an independent, dispassionate organisation that could remove the decision making from from any undue political interference.
“The Athletics Integrity Unit are not steeped in athletics,” he added. “They’re not going to be on everybody’s Christmas card list, nor should they be. They just do a really thorough forensic job.
“I hope the AIU has restored some confidence that we’ve got an organisation out there that will fearlessly and ruthlessly weed out the cheats when and where they surface.”
Asked if that means it will be more difficult than ever for athletes to cheat in Tokyo, Coe paused, doubtless aware that pre-2012 hopes that London would be the ‘cleanest’ Games turned to dust with 139 athletes since banned or disqualified for doping.
“I’m too long in the tooth to make long predictions,” he said. “What I can say is if that if athletes do, there is a greater chance of them being caught than probably any previous games.
“I feel I will be taking World Athletics to Tokyo with better systems in place than any other Federation. And I’m proud to be able to say that.
“We happen to be the largest sport, and we happen to be doing more testing than frankly any other sport out there on an intelligence-led basis through an independent integrity unit.”
The judgement of some will be reserved until CAS rules both on Coleman and 400 metres world champion Salwa Eid Naser, who was cleared on whereabouts charges last month.
The AIU have appealed against the latter decision after Naser escaped a two-year ban on a technicality – because a tester knocked on the door of a storage cupboard instead of her apartment.
Coe insists that the whereabouts system, which requires athletes to be where they say they are for one hour a day, is the way forward for the sport.
“I’m satisfied that the majority of athletes feel the system works,” he said, dismissing those who say the technology is too complicated when they are “updating Instagram pages by the hour”.
“It’s clear, it’s not ambiguous, it’s not arcane maritime law and the vast majority absolutely understand the importance of it.
“This is not the first generation that’s learned to deal with whereabouts. This is now a pretty established part of their landscape.
“They’ve got systems and structures around them to make sure that they adhere to that and they take comfort from the fact they’re part of the process.”