March 08, 2016

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) If Carl Lewis ran the world, Sebastian Coe would not be in charge of track and field right now.

The nine-time Olympic gold medalist said he believes the sport would be better served if Coe stepped aside as leader of track's governing body, let an independent organization clean things up, then took charge again.

''I think Seb Coe is smart enough, he's a great guy who can do this,'' Lewis said Tuesday. ''But at the end of the day, when you're talking about drugs and issues like this, you're talking about credibility. If he was willing to step aside, and let someone independent come in and really clean this up, he'd be the perfect guy to come back in and run it.''

Coe, who was elected in August as IAAF president, is under scrutiny because he served as a vice president for the federation for years under former president Lamine Diack, who is accused of wide-ranging corruption during his tenure.

An independent report commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency said members of the IAAF council ''could not have been unaware of the extent of doping'' in Russia and the breaking of anti-doping rules and ''could not have been unaware of the level of nepotism'' under Diack.

The report did not accuse Coe of wrongdoing.

At a news conference to promote Los Angeles' bid for the 2024 Olympics, Lewis called track and field ''a hot mess.''

''It's not rocket science,'' he said. ''A lot of the countries that had issues, Diack ran to defend them immediately, and now we find out he's taking bribes.''

Many allegations against Diack dealt with his relationships with Russian sports and political leaders, and Lewis finds it odd that the IAAF is trying to police Russia while its former leaders are also under investigation themselves.

Coe has received widespread support from sport leaders around the world. Most recently, the heads of the six continental track and field federations signed a statement pledging to ''unequivocally support Sebastian Coe in his role, reform proposals and actions as IAAF President for now and in the future.''

Lewis, 54, is coaching track at University of Houston and running his own program for kids ages 6-18. He has never been reluctant to sound off about the sport's many difficulties.

After Usain Bolt won three gold medals and set three world records at the Beijing Olympics, Lewis suggested the results should be scrutinized, in part because Jamaicans weren't subject to as strict a drug-testing regimen as U.S. athletes.

Lewis has been a constant critic of USA Track and Field, especially its efforts in coaching relay teams that have a penchant for dropping batons at the biggest meets. ''Embarrassing. A joke. It's silly,'' he said Tuesday, while suggesting USATF hire a college track coach who would be immune to the money and political pressures that often envelop U.S teams.

Lewis said his call for independent agencies on the worldwide scene is something he's been saying since 1987, the year before he tested positive for banned stimulants. His ban was later overturned.

''I said that 30 years ago and I'll support it now,'' he said. ''If you don't have credibility, you don't have a sport, and I think they should focus on getting the credibility.''

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