Sebastian Coe warns against drug cheats at Paris Olympics

World Athletics President Sebastian Coe has warned athletes who try to cheat by using performance-enhancing drugs that they will not sleep well and will be closely monitored using the latest technology to prevent it. He also spoke about the Commonwealth Games and security in Paris.

Former British athlete Sebastian Coe, a middle-distance specialist and Olympic 1500m champion at Moscow 1980 and Los Angeles 1984 (where he set records), knows what it means to compete seriously. He believes that rewarding those who do not compete fairly undermines the rest of the athletes and athletics itself.

So, as the European summer and the Paris Olympics approach, Coe has issued a stern warning about the use of performance-enhancing drugs – in other words, cheating. “You will not sleep well,” are three words that sum up Coe’s stance on athletes who use illegal drugs. Coe, who was born in London 67 years ago, remains hopeful that the use of technology will help make these Games cleaner than previous ones. Technology has improved significantly in recent years, especially from Tokyo to Paris, including the detection of banned substances.

During the Hay Festival, which began on 23 May and runs until this Sunday, 2 June, Sebastian Coe was interviewed by journalist Matthew d’Ancona as part of a series of interviews with various personalities organised by the festival. 

Among other things,Coe expressed his sadness that athletics is not free from controversy over doping.

“Human nature tells me that, even with proper education programmes and strong deterrents, there will always be a few people who will take that risk/reward decision and step outside the moral boundaries,” lamented Coe, who was also chairman of the London 2012 Organising Committee.

However, he expressed confidence in the use of technology and warned: “No athlete who thinks they can get away with it can sleep easy.

In another part of the wide-ranging interview, conducted during the festival organised by the non-profit organisation that runs festivals of stories, ideas and new possibilities around the world, Coe was asked about the inclusion of Israeli athletes in the Games and the security implications. He noted that the situation is more complicated than London 2012 because there are more conflicts. “Paris is more difficult than London,” he explained.

As is customary at this festival in the book town of Hay-on-Wye, Wales, UK, there is an attempt to go deeper than current events suggest. Asked about World Athletics’ decision to ban transgender women who transitioned after puberty from competing in elite women’s events in March 2023, Coe was unequivocal: “If such rules are not implemented, no woman will win another sporting event, I’m afraid it’s as simple as that.”

However, he said it was fine for transgender women to run in local women’s recreational categories, but not at the competitive level.

Finally, he did not hide his disappointment at the way the Australian state of Victoria handled the cancellation of the 2026 Commonwealth Games.

He said that the Games now have the opportunity, probably through ‘force majeure’, to restructure and seriously consider whether the current format and costs are appropriate. “We need to see what we can do with some of the sports, although it may seem brutal, not all the disciplines are popular or attract television attention and unfortunately we have to think that way now because the future of sport at this level depends on attracting new, young and vibrant audiences.”

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