Beijing: Sergey Bubka on Monday denied he was the underdog in the battle for the IAAF presidency with Sebastian Coe, insisting he was "very confident" of victory between two legends of track and field.
Bubka goes head-to-head with Coe when the 214 member federations of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) vote on Wednesday on whom they think should take over from incumbent Lamine Diack, who is stepping down at the age of 82 after 16 years in charge. Some media outlets have tagged up Coe, the British two-time Olympic 1500m champion, as frontrunner, but Bubka, who also won Olympic pole vault gold and 10 world titles for Ukraine, insisted this was not the case.
"I'm feeling very good. I'm very confident, I have a lot of support from federations," the 51-year-old told a small group of journalists including AFP. Turning to reports that 37 federations had publicly backed Coe compared to just five for Bubka, the Ukrainian responded: "I don't know how they count, how do they get these numbers.
"Monaco, Montenegro and Iceland have said they didn't give any permission (to go public as having backed Coe) and you can find many countries like that. "I prefer not to guess who will win. I'm a man of results so we'll see the results on Wednesday!" Bubka acknowledged, however, that there was little animosity between him and Coe, who both currently serve as IAAF vice-presidents to Diack.
"We're friends, colleagues, we work together," he said. "It's good, it's competition, it's good for sport." While Coe will only be standing for president, Bubka has hedged his bets and will also stand for re-election as vice-president should his bid to succeed Diack fail. Turning to the doping allegations that have rocked the sport in recent weeks, Bubka reiterated his "zero tolerance" of athletes who cheat.
"Whoever violates the rules will pay the price, will be punished," he said, stressing that "sport alone will not succeed in this matter". "We as IAAF, and I personally, are strong believers and supporters of the fight against doping. Zero tolerance. We must protect clean athletes.
The IAAF is the leading international federation with many initiatives." Bubka admitted, however, that the IAAF had to "present more proactively on what is done and has been done". Although the leading anti-doping federation, IAAF, he said, needed a "stronger, efficient and more successful" programme, also calling for "stronger punishment" of those athletes found cheating.