Papa Massata Diack, the consultant and son of former International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) President Lamine Diack, is among three officials to have been banned for life from athletics today by the world governing body’s Ethics Commission, who concluded that figures within the organisation have been “guilty of blackmail” since 2011.
Former IAAF treasurer and All-Russia Athletic Federation President Valentin Balakhnichev, previously the Soviet national athletics coach from 1978 to 1984, has also been banned for life along with long distance running and race-walking coach Alexei Melnikov following allegations of doping cover-ups.
Former IAAF anti-doping director Gabriel Dollé has been handed a five-year ban.
It is the most damning admission of wrongdoing so far by the IAAF, in which they raise the possibility that other countries, such as Morocco and Turkey, may have also been involved in positive drugs tests being covered-up.
“The Panel considers in the light of its findings that VB (Balaknichev), AM (Melnikov) and PMD (Diack) should be banned for life from any further involvement in any way in the sport of track and field,” said the report published on the IAAF’s website today.
“Any lesser sanction would not meet the gravity of their offences.
“In GD’s (Dolle’s) case such ban is also appropriate but in his case for five years only.
“His sins were those of omission, not commission.
“The Panel hereby imposes these bans with effect from the date of this decision.”
The quartet were being charged in relation to payments totalling approximately £435,000 ($634,000/€583,000) made by Russia’s Liliya Shobukhova, the 2010 London Marathon winner a three-time Chicago Marathon champion, in order to cover-up doping violations.
The ARAF had knowledge of Shobukhova’s suspicious biological passport readings in 2011, but “abnormalities” were not announced by the ARAF until three years later, the Ethics Commission reported.
“Since 2011, ARAF has been blackmailed by the IAAF,” it is concluded.
“A system was put into place at the IAAF level under which athletes with an abnormal blood passport profile would be allowed to keep competing at a high level in exchange of cash payment made to the IAAF.”
Among events she is alleged to have competed at after suspicions were first raised and payments were taken was the London 2012 Olympic Games, where she failed to finish the marathon.
As well as Shobukhova, other athletes to have been identified as paying bribes to cover-up cases include Sergey Kirdyabkin, the London 2012 50 kilometres race walking champion and Olga Kaniskina, the Beijing 2008 20km winner and London 2012 silver medallist.
Others include Valery Borchin, the Olympic 2008 20km gold medallist.
All the race-walkers have already been handed bans for doping, with the Court of Arbitration for Sport set to rule on further sanction by late-February following hearings last month.
According to Balakhnichev, this system was “introduced and orchestrated by the son of the IAAF President and his lawyer, Mr. Habib Cisse, with the help of some other people within the IAAF anti-doping department”.
Crucially, it is thought possible that the system was in place “not only in Russia, but, potentially, in other countries such as Morocco and Turkey”.
Britain’s Sebastian Coe, Diack’s successor as President, thanked the “independent IAAF Ethics Board for their diligent and detailed investigation”.
He added: “The life bans announced today could not send a stronger message that those who attempt to corrupt or subvert the sport of athletics will be brought to justice.
“We continue to work with the French authorities’ investigation and the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) Independent Commission.”
European Athletics Association President Svein Arne Hansen has also criticised the officials and announced Balakhnichev will be stripped of his honorary membership of the Council.
That appears unavoidable anyway given the life-ban.
“We are angered by the betrayal of our sport by these individuals,” he said.
“As an immediate action I am today writing to our council to request its approval for a proposal to the next Congress to strip Mr. Balakhnichev of the title of Honorary Council member of European Athletics.
“In the meantime, as an extraordinary measure, if the Council approves we will suspend Mr. Balakhnichev’s honorary membership.”
This all follows the WADA Independent Commission’s allegations of systemic and state-supported doping within Russian athletics.
Since the report’s release in November, ARAF has been suspended by the IAAF and will not be able to compete at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro later this year unless the ban is lifted in time.
Lamine Diack, replaced by Coe as President in October, was also arrested in a separate French police investigation amid claims he was involved in the blackmail plot.
Diack is not directly connected to the allegations in the Ethics Commission report.
The choice of Habib Cissé, however, to “personally supervise” the management of the athlete biological passport cases involving Russian athletes is significant, with the lawyer, who operates a private practice in Paris, described as the President’s [Diack’s] legal advisor by the Commission.
He also acted for the IAAF “from time to time”, it is added.
Both Cissé and Dolle are also under investigation by the French authorities.
The IAAF Ethics Commission is conducting a separate investigation to the WADA Independent Commission, who are due to release the second section of their findings in Munch onJanuary 14.
Allegations surrounding the IAAF’s involvement in a doping cover-up are expected to feature heavily.
- By Nick Butler this article was republished with permission from the original publisher Inside the Games www.insidethegames.biz