SYDNEY Athletics was in danger of being destroyed by drugs cheats, Britain's twice Olympic middle-distance champion Sebastian Coe said on Tuesday.
He said the sport was reeling from a series of high-profile doping busts and would struggle to cope with any more major scandals.
"We cannot have another five years like the one we've just been through because I'm not sure the sport would survive that," he told a luncheon in Melbourne on Tuesday.
Coe won the 1500 metres titles at the 1980 and 1984 Olympics and is now vice-president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and chairman of the organising committee for the London 2012 Games.
Athletics has been rocked by a series of doping scandals in recent years, including the jailing of former Olympic champion Marion Jones for lying about steroid use to a grand jury.
Coe said the scandals had damaged the sport's credibility and it was important to ensure measures were taken to catch cheats before they won medals.
"It is the big issue and we've got to make sure that we've got systems in place that detect and that have penalties that are proportionate to the damage that is being done to our sport," he said.