By Nick Mulvenney
BEIJING (Reuters) - Former Olympic champion Sergey Bubka thinks the fight against doping is the main task facing whoever triumphs in Wednesday's IAAF presidential election, a vote he is still confident he will win.
Flanked by fellow Ukrainian sporting greats in footballer Andriy Shevchenko and boxer Vitali Klitschko, Bubka defended his sport's record in the battle against drug cheats but said clearly more needed to be done.
Bubka will take on another former great of the sport in Britain's Sebastian Coe in Wednesday's ballot, which has been overshadowed by allegations of wholesale doping in athletics over the last three weeks.
The six-times world champion said that far from being negligent when faced with evidence of doping, the International Association of Athletics Federation had, in fact, led the way in the fight.
"We were first with biological athlete passports, we try to use scientific knowledge. We invest more than any other federation and we will continue," he told Reuters in Beijing.
"We are in favor of life bans, four-year bans, and this we will continue to do. But we must do it according to the regulations. If we need to strengthen them, we will strengthen them."
While Coe is committed to moving towards a fully independent anti-doping agency to deal with violations in international athletics, Bubka said he would work with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to chart the best way forward.
"WADA play this role and invest a lot of money. We need to assess, we need to consult. One of the main subjects for the IAAF is which way we go," he said.
"Which system is more efficient and more successful.
"This is very important and the main task of the future IAAF president," he added.
The 51-year-old made his comments at a lunch to announce a new event for next year set up by French pole vaulter Renaud Lavillenie in his home town of Clermont-Ferrand.
Bubka said the event echoed work he had done in Ukraine when he was active to bring athletics to the people, which would be a key part of his strategy to popularize the sport if he was elected.
"Today we can approach (people) on the square, on the street, indoor, with music," he said.
"It must be spectacular, it must be a show. And in this way to attract the youth, to bring them to sport. To encourage them to be with us."
Some media reports have suggested that Bubka is seriously lagging behind Coe in the support of the more than 200 national federations who will elect the new president.
Bubka pointed out that some federations had already broken with announcements for Coe made by blocs of nations they were part of and would put his trust in Wednesday's ballot.
"For me, it's more important when it is a real vote. This is guessing, this is games. Normally I prefer a fair game, like in sport," he said.
"I feel very well, I am very confident. I feel very strong, I have big support from members of our federations and I'm confident for 19th of August."
(Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)