Lamine Diack, President of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) travelled to Zurich on Thursday for a meeting with FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter. The 65-year-old Senegalese, who distinguished himself as a defensive midfielder during the 1950s, took up athletics by chance and went on to become French long jump champion in 1958 with an impressive leap of 7.63m.
At the end of his career, Mr Diack moved into sports administration, becoming the national technical director of the Senegal football team before going on to occupy a number of positions with the Senegalese Athletics Federation and then the Olympic Movement. He has also been a member and vice-president of the Senegalese parliament, and in 1999 was elected IAAF President. FIFA.com spoke to Mr Diack after his meeting with Joseph S. Blatter.
Mr Diack, why have you come to Zurich today?
I came to talk to Mr Blatter about the problem of football and athletics sharing the same facilities and specifically the issue of running tracks in stadiums, which has been causing me some concern. I told the FIFA President what I think about this issue, which is that if a stadium has been built by a local authority, it mustn't be restricted to just one sport. I think we need to coexist as we have been doing up to now. We spoke about this for a long time.
Did you discuss any other issues with President Blatter?
Yes, of course. We share the same views on the specific nature of sport. We are on the same wavelength in that regard and we both feel the European Union should understand that sport has a character of its own and that this should be preserved. We're fighting together to ensure that's the case.
Like FIFA, the IAAF is wholeheartedly committed to the fight against doping. What line do you take on that subject?
We have adopted a very tough line by imposing four-year bans in doping cases. We are trying to standardise disciplinary measures across all sports. We switched back to minimum two-year bans following our 1997 Congress. There have been several cases and we are in favour of tougher penalties. With regard to steroids, for example, we would like to go back to four-year suspensions. The WADA Code recommends standardisation but it's not easy for everyone to be in agreement as some people think four years is too long. The WADA Code lays down suspensions of between zero and four years and it's our opinion that four years is not too harsh in serious cases.
Another cause of concern for the two organisations is the eligibility of sportsmen and women for national teams. What is your opinion on the matter?
We don't want to restrict athletes' freedom of choice, but we have a rule in athletics that establishes an interval of three years between an athlete taking out a new nationality and competing for their adopted country, unless the two countries involved reach an agreement, in which case the time period is reduced to one year. That is what happened in the case of Francis Obikwelu for example. However, the IAAF Council also has the option of deciding, in specific cases, that there is no need to wait.