PARIS - There should be zero tolerance for athletes who use banned drugs, according to the IAAF's Sergey Bubka, who will call for a review of doping rules should he be elected president of track and field's governing body next month.
Bubka lit up athletics as a pole vaulter, winning Olympic gold and being crowned world champion six times in a career in which he broke the world record 35 times.
And now the Ukrainian finds himself in a dogfight with Britain's two-time 1500m champion Seb Coe to replace Lamine Diack as president of the International Association of Athletics Federations, with the vote set for August 19, ahead of the world championships in Beijing.
One of his manifesto pledges is to continue the crackdown on doping, with track and field still dogged by claims of institutionalised doping, be it by individual coaches or countries' federations.
"Zero tolerance for doping," reiterated Bubka in a press briefing in Paris.
"We must continue the fight and protect clean athletes, work closely with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), with international federations and the IOC, to combine our resources, energy and finance." Coe has pledged to set up an independent anti-doping agency solely for track and field if he is voted in as president, but Bubka preferred the option of continuing to work alongside WADA.
"I can see being with WADA being the most successful because the governments can contribute financially and also offer scientific and medical expertise with government involvement, INTERPOL, we need that.
"It's reality, it's not a pleasant area. Of course I don't like it but the reality is someone respects the rules and someone cheats. We must continue to fight that." Bubka's manifesto has a heavy slant on involving more children in athletics, calling on athletes to act as role models they would like to emulate.
When asked whether sprinter Justin Gatlin, who at 32 is in the form of his life after serving two doping bans, was a suitable role model, Bubka said the American was simply following current IAAF rules and regulations.
"I remember in 1999 when WADA started, and I remember how many lawyers from different parts of the world were brought together to develop one rule or regulation (that covers) all the world, it's a very complicated issue," Bubka said.
"Sanction, banned for life - they said 'this is a violation of human rights, we can do four years, we can do two years'.
"I'm in favour of strong rules and regulations.
"I consider that in the last 15 years we've done a lot. I'm not happy to see some positive cases, but in another way this means we're doing a better job." But Bubka showed signs of the hardline approach he would surely like to adopt.
"There is no excuse (for doping). For me if you cheat you pay the price. It's finished. I don't want to see anyone who cheats come back, but legally can we do that? That is the issue." Gatlin, he said, was merely "following the rules of today".
"I'm always not happy if someone violates the rules. We have a constitution and the rules, and everyone should follow them.
"I'm an honest man and I consider this very important, but sometimes something can happen and one crosses the line on the red the other one on the green. You pay the price if you cheat. Every case is different, there are legal issues, the whats and hows.
"But a rule is a rule and we must be tough and we must eliminate (doping cheats)." Bubka admitted, when asked whether he would be comfortable with Gatlin potentially winning the sprints at the Beijing worlds, that there was "a lot of work ahead" in an in-depth review of the doping issue.
"We must follow the rules. We have the rules - he (Gatlin) was sanctioned. After the sanctions he came back. He did it according to the current rules.
"It's a tough issue, but no excuse - zero tolerance for them."