The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) were tonight forced to deny allegations they considered hiding drugs cases involving Russian athletes from the public before the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
Documents published by Associated Press claimed to show that in 2011 there were so many Russians suspected of doping due to results obtained via their athlete biological passport (APB) that the IAAF considered adopting a “rapid and discreet” approach to the problem.
This meant that athletes suspected of doping not among the top tier of competitors would be dealt with privately and their sanction would be cut from four years to two if they agreed to the deal.
The suspension would also not be publicised, according to an internal IAAF memo dated December 5, 2011 sent from its anti-doping director Gabriel Dollé, to Habib Cissé, Diack’s legal counsel.
“These measures concern athletes without titles or major results. Their withdrawal from competition wouldn’t necessarily attract attention,” said a follow-up briefing note dated April 10, 2012, sent by Dollé to then-IAAF President Lamine Diack and marked “STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL.”
Diack was last year arrested as part of a French police investigation amid allegations he was involved in an extortion plot in which money was accepted in return for tests involving Russian athletes being covered up.
His son, Papa Massata Diack, a former consultant with the IAAF, was last week banned for life by the world governing body’s Ethics Commission for his role in trying to extort money from the Russian marathon runner Liliya Shubokhova.
Dollé received five years for his part in the scheme after the Ethics Commission decided his “sins were those of omission, not commission”.
A spokesman for the IAAF, however, tonight claimed that there were no secret bans.
“Every suspicious ABP profile was investigated in full accordance with IAAF Rules and the World Anti-Doping Code,” he said.
“All confirmed doping cases were publically sanctioned.
“Nothing was covered-up.
“In 2011 there was a huge influx of suspicious profiles coming through the ABP.
“Each case takes an average of eight months to 18 months from investigation to sanction.
“There was a need to prioritise, and in particular to expedite those cases which involved potential medal winners ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games.
“No cases were concealed or supressed, the IAAF simply tackled them in order of importance.
“Every athlete was investigated and has either been sanctioned or is currently going through a legal process as part of being sanctioned.”
Russia finished second overall in the athletics medal table at London 2012 with a total of 17 medals, including eight gold.
Since then a number of Russians have come under suspicion for doping and face being stripped of their medals.
They include Sergey Kirdyapkin and Elena Lashmanova, winners of the men’s 50 kilometres and women’s 20km walks.
Both were banned for two years shortly afterwards.
The IAAF are now appealing against the decision in the Court of Arbitration for Sport, believing they should be stripped of their gold medals.
Others being investigated include Mariya Savinova and Yuliya Zaripova, gold medallist in the women’s 800 metres and 3,000m steeplechase respectively.
Former IAAF treasurer and All-Russia Athletic Federation (ARAF) President Valentin Balakhnichev, who was also banned for life by the Ethics Commission, had been reportedly warned in 2009 that there was a major problem with doping in his country.
According to Associated Press, in October 2009 then-IAAF general secretary Pierre Weiss had written a letter to Balakhnichev expressing his concerns.
“This matter of the Russian athletes’ blood levels is now so serious and is not getting any better (in fact possibly getting worse) that immediate and drastic action is needed,” he wrote.
Last month, Nick Davies, the chief of staff of new IAAF President Sebastian Coe, announced he was standing down pending an Ethics Commission investigation into leaked emails that showed he discussed the possibility of managing the release of Russian bans to avoid negative publicity in the build-up to the 2013 World Championships in Moscow.
Earlier today, Rune Andersen, independent chairman of the Taskforce set-up by the IAAF to oversee the return of Russia to competition following their suspension, had claimed he believed they were committed to reforming their system.
It followed the first visit of the Taskforce to Moscow since the IAAF banned Russia last November after they were accused of state-supported doping in a report published by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Independent Commission.
More revelations could yet emerge about Russia and its relationship with the IAAF when the WADA Independent Commission publishes the second part of its report at a press conference in Munich on Thursday (January 14).