- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 19, 2015

BEIJING (AP) - Lamine Diack opened his last congress as IAAF president with a staunch defense of the integrity of the international track and field federation under his watch, saying his sport had been at the forefront of the anti-doping campaign and was actively dealing with the latest controversies.

The 82-year-old Diack took time before the election of his replacement Wednesday to respond to criticism that the sport’s hierarchy has failed to act on evidence of widespread blood doping.

Media in Germany and Britain recently cited leaked test results from a 2011 study from an IAAF database and alleged that blood doping was rampant in the sport.

“A newspaper stole some information from our databank but our officers have reacted in an admirable way,” Diack said. “They have said, ‘This is what we have done, this is what we’re doing.’”

Diack said the broad sweep of criticism just ahead of the world championships in Beijing was unfair for athletes, who had been portrayed as “monsters in the eyes on the newspapers, who seem to be saying everyone is doped.”

“We will be holding these championships in Beijing and people will say ‘80 percent of the athletes are bound to test positive,’ but no, this is totally untrue,” Diack added. “We must resolve, of course, the problem of doping. All the champions must be tested regularly and each country must have its own anti-doping body.”

He said the IAAF spent millions of dollars annually “to ensure that athletes are properly protected and remain clean” and had been a trailblazer in anti-doping activities in sport.

Sebastian Coe, who beat Sergei Bubka by 115 votes to 92 in the election the next four-year term as IAAF president, has vowed to establish a fully independent anti-doping tribunal for the sport in a bid to remove any threat to the integrity of the federation. He also praised Diack’s work to improve the strength of the IAAF in terms of finances and in the anti-doping fight over decades.

Diack, a politician and former technical director of Senegal’s football team, was elected to the IAAF Council in 1976 and became vice-president in 1991 before taking over the presidency following the death of Primo Nebiolo in 1999.

He came under fire earlier in the year after acknowledging in a BBC interview that the IAAF faced a “crisis” in Russia and vowing to clean up the problem. That came in the wake of disciplinary procedures opening against Viktor Chegin, who headed the Russian race-walking center in Saransk. More than 20 athletes trained by Chegin - including Olympic champions - have received doping bans or been placed under investigation in recent years.

And he faced criticism again Wednesday from the Swedish delegation over the decision to award the 2021 world championships to Eugene, Oregon, without a proper bidding process. The European Athletics President Svein Arne Hansen criticized the decision at the time, saying the IAAF knew that Swedish city Goteborg was preparing a bid.

A Swedish delegate used the congress Wednesday as a platform to criticize the lack of transparency of the bidding process, saying it seriously eroded the country’s confidence in the system and that it still hadn’t heard an official explanation directly from the IAAF president.

Diack responded that he’d been waiting decades for a U.S. city to host the world championships and his council accepted it “almost unanimously.”

“Blame it on an old president on the eve of his departure who wanted to take this opportunity to give this opportunity to the United States,” he said. “I’m sorry about this - I’ll come and talk about this with you. It’s appropriate you should have taken this at the floor of the congress.”

The congress finishes on Thursday, two days before the world championships start at the Bird’s Nest stadium in Beijing, venue of the 2008 Olympics. Diack’s 16-year term as IAAF president officially ends on Aug. 31.

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