SEB COE reckons he was deprived of qualifying for a third Olympic Games due to an asthma attack.It is known that Coe, a two-time Olympic champion and one of Britain’s greatest athletes, suffered with asthma during his athletics career but it is a topic he rarely speaks publicly about.
Seb Coe tried but failed to qualify for the 1988 Seoul Olympics following asthma issues before the Team GB trialsCredit: News Group Newspapers Ltd
Yet in conjunction with Chiesi’s Lung Letters initiative – promoted also by England cricketer Stuart Broad and boxing champion Nicola Adams – he has decided to speak about his breathing difficulties from his track-and-field days.
On the sporting front, he reckons he was prevented from making the British team for the 1988 Seoul Olympics at the age of 31 following breathing difficulties in the trials.
His autobiography does not mention asthma but in it he talks about the in-house UK Athletics political discussions that happened after his poor performance at the selection event.
On a personal front, he can still remember the times his daughter Alice struggled to breathe, specifically after one Chelsea FA Cup semi-final at Wembley.
Coe, 64, who won 1500m gold at the 1980 and 1984 Games, told SunSport: “I’ve never hidden from my asthma.
“When I was competing for instance the British team knew about it.
Coe, 64, says he suffered with asthma throughout his long and distinguished careerCredit: PA:Empics Sport
“And I have spoken on a lot of occasions very privately with athletes. Not to give them medical advice but to talk about the certain things I found helpful.
“There were days, competitions and training where absolutely I had to use a puffer beforehand. All cleared by the British team doctor.
“You might recover physically very quickly but you were just aware in the course of an evening, maybe in a social environment after a race, you could be struggling a bit for breath.
“I shouldn’t have run the athletics trials in 1988. I was knocked out in the 800m heats in Birmingham.
“I had a cold which two days beforehand I knew was turning into something slightly more seriously. I tried to kid myself that I’d be okay.
“What I should have done was say ‘I’m not feeling well’ but by soldering on, it turned into something which stopped me from breathing properly at all.
“I ended up in an environment where people questioned whether I was ready to compete and I wasn’t selected.
“I often look back at that and think that probably did cost me a third Olympic appearance. I’m not saying medals because they’re pretty hard to come by.”
Coe says his daughter Alice has learned to live with her severe asthma
Smog at the 1984 LA Olympics was a major issue, even for a lad from the “People’s Republic of Sheffield” brought up amid coal-burning forges.
It was a particular issue for his great rival Steve Ovett, who collapsed and spent nights on a drip in hospital following respiratory reactions to the city’s poor air pollution.
Speaking on Clean Air Day UK, Coe recalled: “There’s a photograph where I’m walking off the track clutching my neck with my hand after a semi-final.
“I remember the transport that took us from the village to the track were those yellow school buses, probably belching out as many fumes in the bus inside as were pumped outside.
“LA was a challenge for anybody who had respiratory issues and Steve got badly caught out by it.”
I often look back at that (asthma attack) and think that probably did cost me a third Olympic appearance. I’m not saying medals because they’re pretty hard to come by.Seb Coe on missing 1988 Olympics
In his role as the boss of World Athletics, Coe says the organisation take great responsibility in awarding sporting tournaments to cities that are trying to combat air cleanliness.
Though the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games aren’t under his remit, Coe is aware of a recent report by Breathe GB which claimed the Perry Bar area is one of the most polluted in the country.
It has to be acknowledged that the use of asthma drug Salbutamol has become a controversial subject in elite sport in recent years.
Some stars have been caught abusing the system and coaches like Alberto Salazar – who is banned for four years for doping offences – allegedly encouraged higher doses of prescribed medication to boost performances.
Coe said: “I cannot speak on behalf of other sports. But I can tell you that in our sport and the Athletics Integrity Unit are very, very conscious of that.
“I cannot remember the exact numbers but if we were dealing with 100s, even 1,000s of applications a few years ago, now we are down to 20 a year.”
Seb Coe is an ambassador for the Lung Letters initiative, organised and funded by Chiesi Ltd. For info please visit www.lungletters.co.uk More