World Athletics

World Athletics, formerly known as the International Amateur Athletic Federation and International Association of Athletics Federations (both abbreviated as IAAF), is the international governing body for the sport of athletics, covering track and field, cross country running, road running, racewalking, mountain running and ultrarunning. Included in its charge are the standardization of rules and regulations for the sports, recognition and management of world records, and the organisation and sanctioning of athletics competitions, including the World Athletics Championships. The organisation's president is Sebastian Coe of the United Kingdom, who was elected in 2015 and re-elected unopposed in 2019 for a further four years.[1][2]

World Athletics
PredecessorInternational Association of Athletics Federations
Formation17 July 1912
Founded atStockholm, Sweden
TypeSports federation
Headquarters6-8 Quai Antoine 1er, Monaco
214 member federations
Sebastian Coe


The process to found World Athletics began in Stockholm, Sweden on 17 July 1912 soon after the completion of the 1912 Summer Olympics in that city. At that meeting, 27 representatives from 17 national federations agreed to meet at a congress in Berlin, Germany the following year, overseen by Sigfrid Edström who was to become the fledgling organisation's first president. The 1913 congress formally completed the founding of what was then known as the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF).[3][4][5]

It was headquartered in Stockholm from 1912 to 1946, in London from 1946 to 1993, and thereafter moved to its current location in Monaco. Beginning in 1982, the IAAF passed several amendments to its rules to allow athletes to receive compensation for participating in international competitions. However, the organization retained the word amateur in its name until its 2001 congress, at which it changed its name to the International Association of Athletics Federations. In June 2019 the organization chose to rebrand as World Athletics, with a rollout beginning after the 2019 World Championships in Doha.[6]


President Sebastian Coe during a media session at the 2015 Doha Diamond League

World Athletics is headed by a president. The World Athletics Council has a total of 26 elected members, comprising one president, four vice-presidents (one senior), the presidents of the six area associations, two members of the Athletes' Commission and 13 Council members. Each member of the Council is elected for a four-year period by the World Athletics Congress, a biennial gathering of athletics officials that consists of the Council, Honorary Members, and up to three delegates from each of the national member federations.[7] Chairpersons and member of Committees, which manage specialist portfolios, are also elected by the Congress. There are four committees: the Cross Country Committee, the Race Walking Committee, the Technical Committee, and the Women's Committee.[8] A further three committees were launched in 2019: Development, Governance and Competitions.[9] The governance structure is outlined in the World Athletics Constitution, which may be amended by the Congress.[10]

The World Athletics Council appoints a chief executive officer (CEO), who is focused on improving the coverage of the sport and the organisation's commercial interests. This role was created and merged with the General Secretary role that had existed previously. British former athlete and businessman Jon Ridgeon was appointed to the role in December 2018.[11] Olivier Gers was the first person to officially hold the position in 2016, succeeding the interim CEO/General Secretary Jean Gracia.[12]

In order to give active athletes a voice in the governance of the sport, World Athletics created the Athletes' Commission. Athletes are elected to the commission by other athletes, typically held at the Congress attached to the World Athletics Championships. The commission chairperson and one other athlete of the opposite sex are giving voting rights on the Council. The last election was held in October 2019 at the 2019 World Athletics Championships.[13]

Following doping and corruption issues, a Code of Ethics was agreed in 2013 and an Ethics Commission was appointed in 2014.[14] The Council appoints the chairperson from the elected members, and in turn the chairperson appoints a deputy chair.[15] The Ethics Board's scope was limited in 2017 with the creation of the independent Athletics Integrity Unit, headed by Australia's Brett Clothier, to oversee ethical issues and complaints at arm's length.[16]

The International Athletics Foundation is a charity closely associated with World Athletics that engages in projects and programmes to develop the sport. Albert II, Prince of Monaco is the Honorary President and the role of IAF President is held by the World Athletics President.[17] A World Athletics Heritage department was created in 2018 to maintain historic artefacts and display them through a physical gallery in Monaco, a virtual online gallery, and a travelling exhibition. The department also issues World Athletics Heritage Plaques to commemorate locations of historic interest to the sport.[18]


The fourth IAAF president, Primo Nebiolo

There have been six presidents since the establishment of World Athletics:

Name Country Presidency
Sigfrid Edström  Sweden 1912–1946
Lord Burghley (later Lord Exeter)  United Kingdom 1946–1976
Adriaan Paulen  Netherlands 1976–1981
Primo Nebiolo  Italy 1981–1999
Lamine Diack  Senegal 1999–2015
Sebastian Coe  United Kingdom 2015–present

World Athletics Council

Former athlete and World Athletics Council member Nawal El Moutawakel
Name Role Country Profession
Sebastian CoePresident United KingdomFormer athlete and politician
Sergey BubkaSenior Vice-President UkraineFormer athlete
Ximena RestrepoVice-President ColombiaFormer athlete
Geoff GardnerVice-President
Area Association President
 Norfolk IslandPolitician
Nawaf Bin Mohammed Al SaudVice-President Saudi ArabiaPrince and sports administrator
Hiroshi YokokawaCouncil Member JapanBusinessman
Antti PihlakoskiCouncil Member FinlandSports administrator
Anna RiccardiCouncil Member ItalyTranslator and sports administrator
Nan WangCouncil Member ChinaSports administrator
Adille SumariwallaCouncil Member IndiaFormer athlete and businessman
Nawal El MoutawakelCouncil Member MoroccoFormer athlete
Abby HoffmanCouncil Member CanadaFormer athlete
Sylvia BarlagCouncil Member NetherlandsFormer athlete and physicist
Alberto JuantorenaCouncil Member CubaFormer athlete
Willie BanksCouncil Member United StatesFormer athlete
Raúl ChapadoCouncil Member SpainFormer athlete
Dobromir KaramarinovCouncil Member BulgariaFormer athlete and coach
Beatrice AyikoruCouncil Member UgandaSports administrator
Víctor LópezArea Association President Puerto RicoTrack and field coach
Hamad Kalkaba MalboumArea Association President CameroonFormer athlete and military official
Dahlan Jumaan Al HamadArea Association President QatarSports administrator
Svein Arne HansenArea Association President NorwayTrack meet director
Roberto Gesta de MeloArea Association President BrazilSports administrator
Iñaki GómezAthlete's Commission Member CanadaFormer athlete
Valerie AdamsAthlete's Commission Member New ZealandAthlete

Athletes' Commission

French pole vaulter Renaud Lavillenie was elected to the Athletes' Commission in 2019.
Members elected in 2019
  • Renaud Lavillenie (FRA), 627 votes
  • Valerie Adams (NZL), 613 votes
  • Bernard Lagat (USA), 589 votes
  • Kevin Borlée (BEL), 572 votes
  • Katerina Stefanidi (GRE), 556 votes
  • Aisha Praught-Leer (JAM), 438 votes
Existing members
  • Iñaki Gómez (CAN)
  • Kim Collins (SKN)
  • Adam Kszczot (POL)
  • Thomas Röhler (GER)
  • Ivana Španović (SRB)
  • Benita Willis (AUS)


  • Athletes' Commission: Iñaki Gómez (CAN)
  • Ethics Board: Michael Beloff (GBR)
  • Cross Country Committee: Carlos Cardoso (POR)
  • Race Walking Committee: Maurizio Damilano (ITA)
  • Technical Committee: Jorge Salcedo (POR)
  • Women's Committee: Esther Fittko (GER)
  • Athletics Integrity Unit: David Howman (NZL)

Area associations

Map of world with six area associations

World Athletics has a total of 214 member federations divided into 6 area associations.[19][20]

     AAA – Asian Athletics Association in Asia
     CAA – Confederation of African Athletics in Africa
     CONSUDATLE – Confederación Sudamericana de Atletismo in South America
     EAA – European Athletic Association in Europe
     NACAC – North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletic Association in North America
     OAA – Oceania Athletics Association in Oceania

Partner organisations

As of 1 November 2015:[21]

  • Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS)
  • International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU)
  • International Paralympic Committee (IPC Athletics)
  • International Trail Running Association (ITRA)
  • World Masters Athletics (WMA)
  • World Mountain Running Association (WMRA)
  • Elite Ltd (for incorporation of statistics from into World Athletics website)[22]

Rules and regulations


To allow athletes of different ages to compete against athletes of similar ability, several age categories are maintained. The open class of competition without age limit is defined as "senior". For younger athletes, World Athletics organises events for under-20 athletes (athletes aged 18 or 19 years on 31 December of the year of the competition) as well as under-18 athletes (athletes aged 16 or 17 years on 31 December of the year of the competition), historically referred to as "junior" and "youth" age groups, respectively.[23] Age-group competitions over the age of 35 are organised by World Masters Athletics and are divided into five-year groupings.


The organisation is a signatory to the World Anti-Doping Agency's World Anti-Doping Code and applies sanctions to athletes, coaches and other sportspeople who breach the code through doping or impeding any anti-doping actions.[24]


International level athletics competitions are mostly divided by sex and World Athletics applies eligibility rules for the women's category. World Athletics has regulations for intersex and transgender athletes. The differences of sex development (DSD) regulations apply to athletes who are legally female or intersex and have certain physiology. Currently, such DSD limitations only apply to athletes competing in track running events from 400 metres to the mile run, though World Athletics publicly remains open to extending this to other events based on new scientific study. A DSD athlete who is legally female or intersex will be subjected to specific rules if she has XY male chromosomes, testes rather than ovaries, have circulating testosterone within the typical male range (7.7 to 29.4 nmol/L), and are androgen-sensitive so that their body makes use of that testosterone. World Athletics requires that any such athlete must reduce their blood testosterone level to 5 nmol/L or lower for a six-month period before becoming eligible for international competition. World Athletics created these rules as a way to ensure fair competition in the women's category.[25] In October 2019, World Athletics changed the testosterone limit for transgender competitors, setting it at 5 nmol/L, from the previous 10 nmol/L, in order to bring it in line with the DSD regulations.[26] According to regulations from October 2019, in order for a transwoman to compete in the women's category: "3.2.1 she must provide a written and signed declaration, in a form satisfactory to the Medical Manager, that her gender identity is female; 3.2.2 she must demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Expert Panel (on the balance of probabilities), in accordance with clause 4, that the concentration of testosterone in her serum has been less than 5 nmol/L3 continuously for a period of at least 12 months; and 3.2.3 she must keep her serum testosterone concentration below 5 nmol/L for so long as she wishes to maintain her eligibility to compete in the female category of competition."[27]

The rules have been challenged by affected athletes in the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), though no athlete has done so successfully. In May 2019, CAS upheld the rules on the basis that discrimination against the minority of DSD athletes was proportional as a method of preserving access to the female category to a much larger majority of women without DSDs.[28]


World Athletics organizes many major athletics competitions worldwide.

World Athletics Series

The World Athletics Championships is the foremost athletics competition held by the governing body.
Competition Sport Frequency First held Last held
World Athletics Championships† Outdoor athletics Biennial 1983 Ongoing
World Athletics Indoor Championships Indoor track and field Biennial 1985 Ongoing
IAAF World Cross Country Championships Cross country running Biennial 1973 Ongoing
IAAF World Half Marathon Championships‡ Half marathon Biennial 1992 Ongoing
IAAF World U20 Championships†† Outdoor track and field Biennial 1986 Ongoing
IAAF World Race Walking Team Championships††† Racewalking Biennial 1961 Ongoing
IAAF Continental Cup†††† Outdoor track and field Quadrennial 1977 Ongoing
IAAF World Relays Outdoor track relays Biennial 2014 Ongoing
IAAF World Trail and Mountain Running Championships Trail and mountain running Biennial 2021[29] Ongoing
IAAF World U18 Championships in Athletics Outdoor track and field Biennial 1999 2017
IAAF World Marathon Cup Biennial Marathon 1985 2011
IAAF World Road Relay Championships Ekiden Biennial 1986 1998
IAAF World Women's Road Race Championships 10K run/15K run Annual 1983 1991
† Formerly IAAF World Championships in Athletics
‡ Known as IAAF World Road Running Championships in 2006 and 2007, with 20 km race in 2006
†† Formerly IAAF World Junior Championships
††† Formerly IAAF World Race Walking Cup
†††† Formerly IAAF World Cup

One-day events

Competition Sport First held Last held
Diamond LeagueOutdoor track and field2010Ongoing
World Athletics Continental TourOutdoor track and field2020Ongoing
IAAF World Indoor TourIndoor track and field2016Ongoing
IAAF Road Race Label EventsRoad running2008Ongoing
IAAF Cross Country Permit MeetingsCross country1999Ongoing
IAAF Combined Events ChallengeDecathlon/heptathlon1998Ongoing
IAAF Race Walking ChallengeRacewalking2003Ongoing
IAAF Hammer Throw ChallengeHammer throw2010Ongoing
WMRA World CupMountain running1997Ongoing
IAAF World ChallengeOutdoor track and field20102019
IAAF Indoor Permit MeetingsIndoor track and field19972015
IAAF Race Walking Challenge FinalRacewalking20072012
IAAF World Athletics TourOutdoor track and field20062009
IAAF Golden LeagueOutdoor track and field19982009
IAAF Super Grand PrixOutdoor track and field20032009
IAAF Grand PrixOutdoor track and field19852009
IAAF World Athletics FinalOutdoor track and field20032009
IAAF World Outdoor MeetingsOutdoor track and field20032006
IAAF Grand Prix FinalOutdoor track and field19852002
IAAF World Cross ChallengeCross country19902000
IAAF Golden EventsOutdoor track and field19781982

World Athletics became involved in annual one-day meetings as the sport began to professionalise in the late 1970s. Between 1978 and 1982, World Athletics staged twelve Golden Events, all for men and principally in track running, which saw World Athletics offer prizes to encourage competition. Three years later in 1985, an annual track and field circuit was created in the form of the IAAF Grand Prix, which linked existing top-level one-day meetings with a season-ending IAAF Grand Prix Final for a selection of men's and women's events.[30] The IAAF World Cross Challenge followed in 1990 and began an annual series for cross country running.[31] The track and field circuit was expanded in 1993 with the creation of the IAAF Grand Prix II level, and the IAAF Golden League in 1998. World Athletics began recognising annual indoor track meets via the IAAF Indoor Permit Meetings series in 1997,[32] and in 1998 decathletes and heptathletes found seasonal support with the creation of the IAAF Combined Events Challenge.[30] The World Cross Challenge was disbanded in 2000 and cross country reverted to a permit format via the IAAF Cross Country Permit Meetings.[33] The IAAF Race Walking Challenge was initiated in 2003 to provide a seasonal calendar for racewalking.[34]

World Athletics reformed its track and field circuit in 2003, with the IAAF World Outdoor Meetings series grouping five tiers of annual track and field competitions: the Golden League, IAAF Super Grand Prix, Grand Prix, Grand Prix II, and the IAAF World Athletics Final. The new final format was introduced with a new global performance ranking system for qualification and featured an increased programme of track and field events, mirroring the World Championships in Athletics programme bar the road events, combined events, relays, and the 10,000 metres. The final achieved gender parity in events in 2005, with the inclusion of a women's 3000 metres steeplechase.[35] The track and field circuit was rebranded as the IAAF World Athletics Tour in 2006, which removed the global rankings and the IAAF Grand Prix II (replaced with a level of meetings given permit status by continental governing bodies).[36] With World Athletics having recognised the sport of mountain running in 2002,[37] the annual WMRA World Cup meetings received official sanctioning in 2006.[38] The IAAF Race Walking Challenge Final was created in 2007 to serve as a seasonal final for the Race Walking Challenge. World Athletics designed a sanctioning process for the road running competitions in 2008, with races having to meet organisational requirements to achieve Gold or Silver status under the IAAF Road Race Label Events brand. This incorporated the World Marathon Majors (a privately run series for major marathons initiated in 2006) within the Gold Label category. Road running was the last sport governed by World Athletics to receive seasonal sanctioning.[39]

The 2010 season saw several changes to World Athletics' one-day governance. The World Athletics Tour was made defunct and replaced with three separate series: the 14-meet IAAF Diamond League as the top level of track meetings, the IAAF World Challenge as a second tier of track meetings, and the IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge as the top level of hammer throwing contests (as hammer was not included in the Diamond League). The Road Race Label grouping was also expanded that year with the creation of a Bronze label status.[40] The Race Walking Challenge Final was removed from the racewalking schedule after 2012, as the series focused on international championship performances.[41] In 2016, the IAAF World Indoor Tour was introduced as a replacement of the Indoor Permit Meetings series.[42]

The track and field circuit is due for further changes in 2020, including an increase in the number of Diamond League meetings, the reduction of Diamond League events from 32 to 24, reduction of the Diamond League television running time to 90 minutes, the creation of a one-day Diamond League final, and the relaunch of the World Challenge series as the World Athletics Continental Tour.[43][44]


The organisation hosts the annual World Athletics Awards, formerly the World Athletics Gala until 2017, at the end of each year to recognise the achievements of athletes and other people involved in the sport. Members may also be inducted into the IAAF Hall of Fame as part of the ceremony. The following awards are given:[45][46]

  • Male Athlete of the Year
  • Female Athlete of the Year
  • Male Rising Star Award
  • Female Rising Star Award
  • Coaching Achievement Award
  • Distinguished Career Award
  • Women's Award
  • President's Award
  • Athletics Photograph of the Year

Doping controversy

In 2015, a whistleblower leaked World Athletics' blood test records from major competitions. The records revealed that, between 2001 and 2012, athletes with suspicious drug test results won a third of the medals in endurance events at the Olympics and World Championships—a total of 146 medals including 55 golds—but the World Athletics caught none of them.[47] After reviewing the results, Robin Parisotto, a scientist and leading "anti-doping" expert, said, "Never have I seen such an alarmingly abnormal set of blood values. So many athletes appear to have doped with impunity, and it is damning that the IAAF appears to have idly sat by and let this happen."[47] Craig Reedie, president of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), said his organisation was "very disturbed by these new allegations ... which will, once again, shake the foundation of clean athletes worldwide", and that its "independent commission will investigate the claims".[47]

Around the same time, the University of Tübingen in Germany claimed that World Athletics suppressed publication of a 2011 report in which "[h]undreds of athletes", as many as a third of the world's top athletes, "admitted violating anti-doping rules".[48]

On 1 November 2015, former World Athletics president Lamine Diack was arrested in France and is under investigation on suspicion of corruption and money laundering.[49][50] Diack allegedly accepted "$1.2 million from the Russian athletics federation to cover up the positive doping tests of at least six Russian athletes in 2011."[49]

In November 2015, WADA published its report, which found "systemic failures" in the World Athletics had prevented an "effective" anti-doping programme and concluded that Russia should be banned from competing in international competitions because of its athletes' test results.[51] The report continued that "the World Athletics allowed the conduct to occur and must accept its responsibility" and that "corruption was embedded" in the organization.[52]

In January 2016, as a result of the doping scandal and WADA's report, the World Athletics' biggest sponsor, Adidas, announced that it was ending its sponsorship deal with the World Athletics four years early. The BBC reported that as a result World Athletics would lose $33 million (£23 million) worth of revenue. The 11-year sponsorship deal with Adidas was due to run until 2019.[53] World-record holding sprinter Michael Johnson described the scandal as more serious than that faced by FIFA.[52] In February 2016, Nestlé announced that it was ending its World Athletics sponsorship.[54]

In June 2016, following a meeting of the IAAF's ruling council, World Athletics upheld its ban on Russia's track and field team from entering the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.[55] In February 2017, All-Russia Athletic Federation was disqualified by decision of the World Athletics Council for 8 years for the creation of a doping system.

World Athletics has since resisted demands that Russia be re-instated, on the basis that the country repeatedly failed to satisfy all the agreed criteria. The decision was supported by Sean Ingle of The Guardian who wrote in a column that World Athletics should maintain their ban on Russia through the 2016 Olympics in Rio.[56] That meant Russian athletes could compete at all major events in the following years, including the 2017 IAAF World Championships in London[57] and the 2018 European Championships in Berlin only as neutral athletes. In September 2018, World Athletics faced a legal challenge by Russia to overturn the suspension after the reinstatement of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, but Hugo Lowell of the i newspaper reported the country's status would not change.[58] The legal case was later dropped.

See also

  • List of doping cases in athletics
  • List of eligibility transfers in athletics
  • IAAF World Rankings


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