2019 World Athletics Championship: Lord Coe won't 'gag' protesting athletes

Lord Coe speaking at a news conference
Lord Coe was elected IAAF president in August 2015

IAAF president Lord Coe says he is "not in the mood to gag the voices" of athletes should any protest at the 2019 World Championships, which start in Doha later this month.

Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar while an Amnesty International report has raised concerns over the treatment of migrant workers in the country.

Coe said: "We're a sport founded on being profoundly anti-discriminatory.

"We're very clear about that so I will cross that bridge when I get to it."

He told BBC Sport: "There is a time and place to make your views clear but I'm not in the mood as a federation president ever to gag the voices or the instincts of athletes."

Lord Coe has also defended the choice of Doha as host for the championships, saying it is important athletics heads to new places to ensure the sport's growth while simultaneously highlighting any issues in those territories.

"I've never known a situation where sport going into a fresh and new type of territory hasn't actually flicked the dial both socially, culturally and politically in a very positive way," he added.

"Sometimes people like me in positions of responsibility in a sport can raise issues that politicians tend to either ignore completely or tiptoe around.

"I do think sport and these organisations need to work as closely and as collaboratively as they can because actually sport has the ability to shine a spotlight on many of these issues

"That's not to say we're oblivious to the fact we will be taking our event into places of challenge.

"But we do want to take the sport globally and we can't just sit there going back to the nine, 10 same cities if we are really true to our word about wanting to expand the global foot print of athletics. I'm very keen to do that"

Speaking earlier this month, race walker Tom Bosworth, an openly gay athlete, insisted he would "go there and be myself" when he travels with the rest of the Great Britain squad to the Gulf state.

"I'm sure when the IAAF awarded Doha the competition, they took all of this into consideration and they would have been naive not to," he said.

"There was quite a lot of criticism and fears for supporters going to the Russia football World Cup but it was fantastic event and hopefully Doha will use this to show they are a country that welcomes all, and put on a great show.

"I'm not going to start running down the road with rainbow flags and demanding equality but it is certainly a stage where we can be ourselves.

"If I can do some good without criticising anybody else's country, hopefully countries might learn by hosting competitions like this and develop from it."

Russia decision due on Monday

Meanwhile, Lord Coe said a decision on whether Russian athletes could compete at the Championships under their own flag would be made on Monday, insisting that all the outstanding issues must be addressed for that to happen.

Russian athletes at the 2018 Winter Olympics competed under the Olympic flag because Russia was banned from the Games following the scandal over state-sponsored doping.

"We don't do deals in our sport, we have a criteria, it's really clear and for me the philosophy was simple and important," he said.

"We need to know that the federation that is responsible for their journey through the sport is fit and in shape to be able to reinstate its own responsibilities"

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