By Amlan Chakraborty
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Athletics has been at the forefront in the fight against doping and its world governing body will do everything to protect the clean athletes, president Sebastian Coe said on Monday.
The twice Olympic 1,500 meters champion was elected in August to head the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) which has been accused of going soft on doping after thousands of blood test data were leaked to media.
Coe said athletics has been "at the vanguard" in the fight against doping and promised to rid the sport of the menace.
"It's not uniquely a track and field problem," Coe told reporters after meeting with the south Asian athletics officials in the Indian capital.
"Every sport in the world has global issues. We have them but we also resolve them.
"It is our responsibility to make sure that our systems are clear and concise and the protocols are uniform across the globe," he said.
"We must encourage the clean athletes to believe that we are always going to be in their corner.
"The reason that you have testing systems is actually to protect the clean athletes. It's not just simply to remove those who cheat," he said.
The Briton said IAAF tested 19,000 athletes since 2003-04, more than any other sport, and felt there was a perception issue.
"(Sprinter) Usain Bolt is the most tested athlete, male or female, in any sport on the planet. Reality and perception often get badly tangled," he said.
"We take this very very seriously and we need to make sure that the public believe what they watch in a stadium is legitimate."
Coe hailed six-times Olympic champion Bolt but said athletics would not collapse when the charismatic Jamaican hangs up his spikes, most likely after the 2017 world championships.
"Not since Muhammad Ali do I think any competitor in any sport has captured the imagination in the way Usain Bolt has. We've been very fortunate," said Coe.
"(But) our sport will not come to an end when Usain Bolt retires.
"I am a boxing fan and I remember the kind of conversation boxing was having in the 1960s and 70s -- what when Muhammad Ali retires. Well, Floyd Mayweather comes along, Marvin Hagler comes along, Tommy Hearns comes along, Sugar Ray Leonard comes along.
"Every record that Usain Bolt set as a youngster in school has now been broken by Jamaican athletes which tells you there is in the pipeline a great deal of talent coming through the Jamaican track and field system."
(Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)