IAAF President Sebastian Coe pictured with the Diacks and Nick Davies
SII Focus 1st February 2017

Davies decision highlights ‘cash culture’ at IAAF

A decision by the Ethics Board of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has highlighted a cash culture within athletics’ governing body where it was not unusual for staff members to be given large amounts of money in envelopes to cover official business – a culture that apparently still existed in August 2015. In a decision (PDF below) published yesterday, the IAAF Ethics Board decided to ban Nick Davies, Director of IAAF President Sebastian Coe’s office from the IAAF for life, but allowed his wife, Jane Boulter-Davies and Dr. Pierre-Yves Garnier to return to work immediately, after issuing them with backdated bans. The IAAF confirmed that both had returned to work today.

The evidence given by all three suggested that it was common knowledge within IAAF staff that cash would be used to cover official events. Davies said that US$500,000 in cash had been taken to China to cover expenses at the 2015 IAAF Beijing World Championships. ‘Representatives of the IAAF received cash to reimburse expenses or costs incurred organising courses or projects’, read his evidence. ‘IAAF staff members have requested and made payments in cash for work purposes and a large amount of cash was taken to past events for payments of meal allowances and per diems – for example approximately 500,000 US $ was taken in cash to the most recent World Championships in Beijing’. 

It also appears that senior IAAF staff knew that Russia had a doping problem and would make attempts to get around IAAF regulations. ‘Nick was shocked to know that provisionally suspended athletes might compete in Moscow’, read evidence from Jane Boulter-Davies. ‘I do not think that he was that shocked that the Russians were trying to trick the system because everyone in athletics knew that Russia had a doping problem’.

The IAAF Ethics Board decision also outlines evidence that senior IAAF staff had been unhappy about the IAAF’s relationship with Russia since 2012. Dr. Garnier provided a 9 July 2014 email sent to Lamine Diack to the IAAF Ethics Board which referred to ‘a history of prevarication, failures to make decisions and passivity on the part of the IAAF and commitments not met, fictitious schedules and even lies on the part of “our Russian partners” for nearly two years’.

It also contains evidence that Davies and Gabriel Dollé, former Director of the IAAF Medical and Anti-Doping Department, knew that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was investigating the Moscow laboratory back in July 2013. In response to questions from Daily Mail journalists regarding their July 2013 article, Dolle ‘stressed that the Moscow laboratory was under the responsibility of WADA and told me also that, confidentially, WADA was investigating the laboratory’, read Davies’s evidence. ‘With regard to allegations that there had been cover-ups of cases in Russia our response was that we had no evidence of this’.

Such evidence is likely to be of interest to the Culture, Media and Sport (CMS) Committee of the UK Parliament. It is keen to recall IAAF President Sebastian Coe for questioning on his claims that he was not aware of corruption within the IAAF until ARD published a December 2014 documentary.

Davies suspended himself from duty in December 2015, after leaked emails revealed an apparent plot to delay the announcement of Russian doping positives until after the IAAF’s 2013 Moscow World Championships. The IAAF did not provisionally suspend him until June 2016, almost seven months after he had stepped aside. He is a close ally of Coe, who promoted Davies from his position as IAAF Director of Communications after he assisted with Coe’s election campaign. The CMS Committee is keen to ascertain if Coe deliberately ignored evidence of corruption at the IAAF in order not to disrupt his Presidential campaign, which was launched in November 2014.

In his evidence, Davies admits to receiving €30,000 from Papa Massata Diack (PMD), son of IAAF President Lamine Diack, in two envelopes at a July 2013 meeting. Davies told the IAAF Ethics Board that he understood the first €25,000 payment was to ‘improve the media mood’ ahead of the 2013 Moscow World Championships. He understood the second €5,000 payment to be a bonus in recognition of good work. ‘PMD emphasised that the President encouraged me to spend this money on my family, as he thought very highly of my wife Jane’, reads his evidence.

Statement from Nick Davies
Statement from Nick Davies

Davies also admitted that he had initially lied to French police and the IAAF Ethics Board over his receipt of the payments. ‘I was afraid that I might then be suspected of involvement in the extortion scheme and decided, wrongly, to deny that I had received such money’, reads his evidence.

The IAAF Ethics Board accepted Davies’s explanation that he did not suspect that the money was related to anything other than official IAAF payments, despite Davies’ evidence that PMD had told him Russia had supported an election campaign in Senegal. ‘He also confided in me that Russia had supported the successful opposition party in Senegal during the recent Presidential elections and that this gave his father an added pressure to organise the best possible competition in Moscow’, reads his evidence.

On 25 July 2013, Jane Boulter-Davies apparently discovered that a number of suspended Russian athletes had been entered into the 2013 Moscow World Championships – shortly after her husband’s meeting with PMD, which he states took place sometime between 16-18 July. According to the Davies, they did not normally discuss work at home due to the confidentiality of Jane’s anti-doping work, however she decided to confide in Nick after meetings with senior IAAF staff went nowhere.

The IAAF Ethics Board also accepted that despite Jane confiding in Nick, neither were aware of the true intentions of the €30,000 payment, which was outlined in a 29 July 2013 email from PMD to his father, IAAF President Lamine Diack. It also accepted Boulter-Davies’s explanation that she was only aware of the €5,000 payment. The 29 July 2013 email read as follows:

VVB [Valentin Balakhnichev] asked me to intervene internally with IAAF personnel who had been antagonistic towards him in the process of the management of the Russian cases [ce dossier] since September 2012 and, to this end, work of lobbying and of explanation has been carried out with C. Thiare (50 K), N Davies (UK press lobbying, 30 K and to calm down Jane Boulter); G Dollé (50 K) and PY Garnier (assistance Champagnolle 10K; managed by Cheikh who has agreed to speak to them so as to bring me up to date on Monday 29 July)’.

In a 19 July 2013 email sent to PMD, Davies outlined a plan to put PMD’s request that he should ‘improve the media mood’ ahead of the Moscow 2013 World Championships. This email, which is published in full within the IAAF Ethics Board decision, recommended that the IAAF implement ‘as soon as possible, and “unofficial” PR campaign to ensure that we avoid international media scandals related to the Moscow Championships especially in the British press, where the worst of the articles is coming from. This will require specialist PR skills (working only with me directly) from London, but I believe that if we consider using CSM we can also benefit from Seb’s political influence in the UK. It is in his personal interest to ensure that the Moscow World Champs is a success and that people do not think that the media of his own country are trying to destroy it… We can work extremely hard in stopping any planned “attacks” on Russia from the British press in the coming weeks’.

This suggests that it was common knowledge within the IAAF in July 2013 that Coe would be a candidate in the forthcoming IAAF elections, and that it would be in his ‘personal interest’ in terms of votes in that election to ensure that Moscow 2013 was a success. It also suggests a perception within the IAAF that media reports about doping were an attack on the IAAF, rather than attempts to highlight corruption. Coe famously described allegations that the IAAF had failed to follow up on suspicious blood values a “declaration of war on my sport”.

Davies’s evidence also suggests that he would have discussed PR plans for Moscow 2013 with Sebastian Coe. ‘I would also have discussed PR activities with those Council Members who would be able to give a boost to the event – for example Sergey Bubka (who was a celebrity in Russia) and Lord Sebastian Coe, who was also well known in Moscow as this was the site of his first Olympic gold medal and where his career first took off’, reads Davies’s evidence. ‘Both Bubka and Coe took part in press conferences and PR activities in Moscow before the World Championships’. Surprisingly, it appears that the IAAF Ethics Board didn’t press Davies on whether his discussion with Coe included the plan he outlined in his 19 July email.

Ultimately, Davies’s plan was never put into action, however the CMS Committee may be interested to know if Coe was aware of Davies’s plan to use CSM, a sports marketing company Chaired by Coe. It also appears that Davies saw nothing wrong with holding the money given to him by PMD in his personal account until further notice. ‘I asked PMD what was the procedure for using the rest of the money or accounting for its use’, reads his evidence. ‘He had no proposals and was disinterested, so I just kept the money in my bank and waited for a request for repayment from either PMD or the President since they had given me the funds’. 

However, the IAAF took a different view of Davies’s failure to return the money. ‘Mr Davies told the Panel that when he discussed this with Papa Massata Diack in the stands at the end of the Moscow World Championships, Papa Massata told him to keep the money’, reads its decision. ‘Mr Davies thereafter made no effort to return it’. It also appears that Davies no longer has the entire €30,000, as he ‘has stated that he intends to repay these sums as he able to over time’.

In Dr. Garnier’s case, the IAAF Ethics Board accepted that by the end of 2014, he had realised that €10,000 received from IAAF President Lamine Diack was not intended for a ‘commemorative event’ he had planned in Champagnole, a small town in the Jura region of France. ‘Since the start of 2013, LD had mentioned his desire – deferred several times – to go back to Champagnole (6000 inhabitants – Jura France) with his friends, former members of the Athletics EdF (“Equipe de France” – French team)’, mentions Dr. Garnier in his evidence. Diack was a member of the French athletics team in the late 1950s and won the event at the 1958 French Athletics Championships.

Such an event did actually take place in May 2014, as this IAAF media statement reveals. As such, the IAAF Ethics Board found that by the end of 2014, Dr. Garnier had realised ‘that this money was not required to cover the expenses of the commemorative event in Champagnolle in the Jura, as these expenses had effectively been paid for by the local organizers, only 25% of the €10,000 related to expenses which had been incurred and Dr Garnier says that by this time he considered the sum of money to be compensation to him for extra professional work organizing the event and a sort of bonus to him from President Diack’.

However, the IAAF Ethics Board found that Dr. Garnier ‘kept the receipt of the money secret and did not declare it as income, nor identify to others the fact of the payment’. Despite Dr. Garnier’s refusal ‘to provide information requested of him’ by the IAAF Ethics Board, the IAAF Ethics Board was only able to issue him with a backdated suspension, allowing him to return to work at the IAAF today.

Conclusion

In Nick Davies’s case, the IAAF Ethics Board was at pains to stress that he had ‘not acted corruptly’, but he had accepted a ‘concealed payment’, had not disclosed it to WADA, the IAAF or French Police and had misled the IAAF Ethics Board, which it described as a ‘serious matter’. It also ruled that Boulter-Davies had not acted corruptly, but had misled the IAAF Ethics Board due to ‘loyalty to her husband’. Dr. Garnier refused to provide information to assist the IAAF Ethics Board with its investigation, but was also allowed to return to work today along with Boulter-Davies.

The IAAF Ethics Board can only assess whether IAAF staff have breached the IAAF Code of Ethics and apply the appropriate sanctions using IAAF regulations. However, aside from the cash culture at the IAAF, the level of knowledge amongst senior IAAF staff that Russia had a problem with doping and that the country’s athletics federation were prepared to break rules in order that doped athletes could take the starting line at major IAAF-sanctioned championships is truly shocking.

Sebastian Coe was IAAF Vice President from 2007 until launching his Presidential campaign in November 2014 (although Davies’s evidence suggests many at the IAAF knew he was preparing to stand in July 2013). He can argue until he is blue in the face that he knew nothing about corruption amongst IAAF officials and that may be true, however he will find it harder to defend himself against allegations that he should have been aware of what was going on – especially when that evidence was handed to him via email.

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