Demonising Justin Gatlin
13th September 2015
The Independent Commission (IC) of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) yesterday found that senior staff at the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) were aware of ‘imbedded’ corruption, involving delaying the announcement of positive doping tests. It also found that in the case of Russia, this corruption may have been linked to financial gain, and the awarding of television and sponsorship rights to the 2013 Moscow IAAF World Championships. ‘There appears to be a connection between the awarding of such rights to broadcasters (probably Russian) in return for muting the discovery of some positive samples by Russian athletes’, read the report.
The IC also found that senior IAAF staff had been involved in extorting money from senior athletes, and that some had attempted to extort money from other cities bidding to host athletics events. This included Doha’s failed bid to host the 2020 IAAF World Championships and allegations that Turkey lost the Lamine Diack’s support for its bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games because it did not pay sponsorship money of between US$4 million and $5 million to either the IAAF or the Diamond League. ‘There may be reason to believe that senior IAAF officials and others acting on their behalf may have benefitted from decisions of the IAAF to award certain cities and countries the IAAF Athletics World Championships’, read the report.
‘The corruption that occurred within the IAAF was not at the level of some foreign currency trader in a bank carrying out unauthorized transactions, without the knowledge or permission of the responsible bank officers’, read the 89-page report (PDF below). ‘Here, it started with the President of the organization. It involved the Treasurer of the organization. It involved the personal counsel of the President, acting on instructions of the President. It involved two of the sons of the President. It involved the director of the Medical and Anti-Doping department of the IAAF […] The IAAF allowed the conduct to occur and must accept its responsibility. Continued denial will simply make it more difficult to make genuine progress.’
The IC found that the IAAF was blind to the corruption of its staff, refusing to acknowledge that any more than a handful of people were involved in such corruption. It found that senior officials had ‘actively interfered’ with the integrity of athletics by ‘effectively covering up through delaying of results management of doping activities of Russian athletes, in return possibly for financial benefits’. It also found that senior officials must have been aware of what was going on, as it was ‘not credible that elected officials were unaware of the situation affecting […] athletics in Russia’.
This is in contrast to the IAAF’s direct denial that it had covered up doping and its claims that only a small number of former employees were involved, issued just three days ago. In fact, the IC complained that the IAAF ‘consistently attempted to assign the blame for illicit and corrupted activities of a small number of rouge individuals’ and that it ‘seemed impossible’ for the IAAF Ethics Commission to share information with the WADA IC whilst both bodies were investigating the same corruption issues. The nail in the coffin for this line of defence was the publication of a 2013 email from Nick Davies, who recently stepped aside as Director of the IAAF President’s Office to allow the IAAF Ethics Commission to investigate the issue.
On 19 July 2013, IAAF Deputy General Secretary and Director of Communications, Davies, emailed Papa Massata Diack suggesting delaying the announcement of positive doping tests relating to Russian athletes until after the 2013 Moscow World Championships. The IC had interviewed Davies prior to the recent leak of the email to the media, who ‘did not mention nor refer to any knowledge of cases of delays of reporting possible doping violations, nor to knowledge of any “Russian ‘skeletons’ in the cupboard”’, and referred to the email as ‘brainstorming’.
The IC was heavily critical of Davies and the IAAF’s explanation for his email. ‘This was not mere “brainstorming”’, its report read. ‘Instead, it was a comprehensive and considered plan proposed by the IAAF Deputy Secretary General and Communications Director to a member of the IAAF President’s inner circle […] Davies was well aware of Russian “skeletons” in the cupboard.’
It also said that the reply from Davies was not from him and had been crafted by IAAF Attorneys. The IC chose to publish the email in full (available here), going against IAAF confidentiality warnings, such as those sent to Hajo Seppelt in December 2015. Seppelt is the journalist behind two documentaries that have alleged IAAF collusion in covering up doping.
The IC found that there may have been a connection between the awarding of broadcasting rights to the Moscow 2013 World Championships and the delaying of the announcement of Russian doping positives. There may have also been a connection with regards to the sponsorship of the event by Russian bank VTB. “We had to report the suspension of Russian athletes suspected of doping after the World Championships in 2013”, the IC said that IAAF President Lamine Diack had told French media, as reported by the Sports Integrity Initiative. “If there were no TV rights, no marketing rights, and if the athletes would have been suspended, it would have been a catastrophe”.
‘An issue had arisen regarding the TV rights to the Championships that had been awarded in 2009 to the IAAF’, reads the IC report. ‘The “problem” is described as having a $6 million US price tag […] it is known that at this point PMD [Papa Massata Diack, son of former IAAF President Lamine Diack] was able to bring in a sponsorship arrangement with the VTB Bank worth $25 million US.’
Such claims have already been partly corroborated in evidence provided to the IAAF Ethics Commission by the former Director of the IAAF’s Anti-Doping Department, Gabriel Dollé. ‘He was told that Lamine Diack, Habib Cissé and Balakhnichev had agreed that the handling of the Russian cases including that of Shobukhova should be drawn out in order not to put in jeopardy an important sponsorship deal for the next IAAF World Championships’, read the IAAF Ethics Commission report, published on 7 January. ‘Lamine Diack had asked Dollé to find a way to manage the cases discreetly to avoid bad publicity which could risk losing an important sponsor (the Russian bank VTB).’ The IC said that this areas warranted ‘forensic examination’ by the IAAF.
The IAAF Ethics Commission also took the decision to ban Papa Massata Diack for life, over allegations that he requested a US$5 million payment during Doha’s failed bid for the 2017 IAAF World Championships. The IAAF made a point of emphasising that Papa Diack’s conduct has been under review since April 2014, with a decision released 21 months later.
The IC report is unequivocal that senior IAAF staff conspired to extort money from the very athletes they were supposed to serve. It found Lamine Diack to be responsible for the conspiracy and corruption that took place at the IAAF, and Cissé to be a ‘co-conspirator’.
The IC found the governance structure of the IAAF ‘inadequate’ for preventing the appointment of Habib Cissé, legal advisor to former IAAF President Lamine Diack, to manage Russian athlete biological passport (ABP) cases in 2011. Such a structure also enabled Diack to appoint his two sons, Papa Massata Diack and Khalil Diack as IAAF advisors. ‘It was completely improper governance to allow supervision of suspected Russian doping cases to be separately managed by the IAAF President’s personal legal counsel’, reads the IC’s report.
The IC found that Cissé had given a list of 23 Russian athletes with suspicious blood profiles to Valentin Balakhnichev, then President of the Russian athletics federation (ARAF) and IAAF Treasurer. ‘Prior to the London 2012 Olympic Games, the Medical & Anti-Doping Department prepared to send out six ABP notification cases’, read the IC’s report. ‘The paperwork for following up possible disciplinary action was delivered directly to Balakhnichev at ARAF by Cissé. Subsequently, these cases were stalled and the paperwork went missing or was unaccounted for’.
The IC report includes evidence that distance runner and 2010 London Marathon winner Liliya Shobukhova was extorted to the tune of €450,000 to allow her to compete in the London 2012 Olympics, with a first payment of €150,000 going to ‘the lawyer’. A company called ‘Black Tidings’, associated with Papa Massata Diack, later returned €300,000 to Shobukhova and her husband. This ties in with evidence given to the IAAF Ethics Commission and indicates that Cissé was paid for facilitating the delay of an announcement regarding a positive test.
Interestingly, the IC also found that London 2012 Olympic gold medal winner Çakır Alptekin was targeted in the same way. In its evidence given to the IAAF Ethics Commission, WADA had said that the extortion scheme was not confined to Russia, but included other countries. ‘‘The system was in place not only in Russia, but, potentially, in other countries such as Morocco and Turkey’, read WADA’s evidence. ‘The money was apparently paid by the athletes’ agents to ARAF and then given to the IAAF’.
The IC recommends that the IAAF should pursue all those involved in such extortion. ‘It was completely improper to have provided a list of Russian athletes suspected of doping to anyone outside the official anti-doping unit at the IAAF’, reads its report.
In August 2015, Hajo Seppelt was sent a database of over 12,000 blood tests conducted on over 5,000 athletes, which was analysed in association with the Sunday Times and Australian scientists, Dr. Michael Ashenden and Dr. Robin Parisotto. The analysis concluded that many of the blood values could not be explained naturally and suggested widespread doping within athletics.
The IC found that ‘it would not have been legally possible to bring successful sanctioning process against any athlete’ based on the values in the database. It revealed that the database had been compiled by Dr. Guiseppe Fischetto in order to develop a targeted testing programme for erythropoietin (EPO), and was therefore incomplete.
However, its analysis of the blood values in the database identified 1,090 samples belonging to 671 athletes that ‘fell outside’ acceptable limits, representing 8.8% of the total samples. This is considerably less than the one in seven (14.3%) identified as suspicious by Ashenden and Parisotto.
It found, contrary to the assertions made by ARD and the Sunday Times, that the IAAF had followed up on any suspicious values highlighted within the database. ‘Overall, the WADA expert group concluded that the reactivity and the number and frequency of the IAAF’s response to atypical blood samples was commendable’, read the report. Of the 309 medal winners identified as having suspicious blood values by the IC’s expert group, 67 received sanctions.
The IC makes a number of recommendations that it says the IAAF should implement. These include:
• A ‘forensic audit’ of the marketing functions related to TV and sponsorship, including the role and remuneration of any agents or consultants.
• Regardless of the outcomes of criminal investigations, the IAAF should pursue all individuals involved in the extortion of Shobukhova and Alptekin.
• A ‘forensic audit’ of the activities of Black Tidings and Ian Tan Tong Han.
• That ARAF’s reinstatement is provisional.
• IAAF anti-doping be separated from the rest of the organisation.
• An Independent Compliance Commission be established.
• The IAAF should report to WADA twice a year regarding any whereabouts or testing difficulties.
Since the IC issued its report, President Sebastian Coe has admitted that the IAAF is a “failed organisation”, but he received backing from IC Chairman and WADA’s first President Dick Pound as a credible reformer. “I think it’s a fabulous responsibility for the IAAF to seize this opportunity and, under strong leadership, to move forward”, Pound told a press conference in Munich (video below).
Following the press conference, Interpol issued a ‘red notice’ regarding Papa Massata Diack, who is now considered wanted on charges of ‘complicity in receiving bribes, aggravated money-laundering, and conspiracy in an organized group to invest, conceal or convert the proceeds of active corruption’. It is understood that Papa Diack is currently in Senegal.
The IAAF is not out of the woods yet. The publication of the IC report had been put on hold while criminal charges were formulated under Interpol’s direction. Those charges could still further implicate IAAF officials.