News 16 June 2016

Analysis: Coe accepted advice from Diack on IAAF election campaign

Sebastian Coe accepted advice from Papa Massata Diack on his successful campaign to be elected as President of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) while Diack was being investigated himself for alleged corruption, a BBC Panorama documentary has alleged. In the video below, the documentary shows text messages between Coe and Diack offering intelligence on plans by Coe’s Presidential rival, Sergey Bubka, as well as information on how IAAF delegates planned to vote.

The text messages from Diack asked Coe to show public support for his father, former IAAF President Lamine Diack, in return. Papa Diack is wanted by Interpol and Lamine Diack was arrested by French police on charges of corruption involving extorting money from athletes in order to cover up positive doping tests in November last year. In the documentary, Coe refused to answer questions about whether he had sought advice from Papa Diack on his campaign. An IAAF statement released this evening did not deny that he had received advice from Diack, only that he had actively sought it.

However, the BBC Panorama documentary also contained text messages from Nick Davies, Director of the IAAF President’s Office, in which he thanked Diack for the information and offered to pass it on and use it. Why would Davies do this if Coe was just attempting to be ‘civil but wary’, as the IAAF release claimed?

Davies was provisionally suspended by the IAAF last week, almost seven months after stepping aside after leaked emails showed him suggesting postponing the announcement of Russian doping positives until after the 2013 Moscow IAAF World Championships. In the BBC Panorama documentary, Diack also claimed the IAAF had planned to keep quiet about Russian doping positives until after the 2013 Moscow IAAF World Championships, which there is evidence for. However, he also claimed that the IAAF did this in order to protect Russia’s investment in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. If this allegation is true, it also puts the International Olympic Committee (IOC) into the frame.

The documentary also alleged that Coe deliberately misled the Culture, Media and Sport (CMS) Committee about how much he knew about allegations of corruption at the IAAF by arguing that he was not aware of them. The Sports Integrity Initiative has previously shown evidence on how senior officials at the IAAF knew about the allegations of corruption in April 2014, and possibly as far back as July 2013.

Russian runner Liliya Shobukhova’s agent, Andrey Baranov, wrote a signed affidavit to the IAAF in April 2014, detailing how Russian sport officials had colluded with IAAF officials to allow her to compete at the London 2012 Olympics, despite a 2011 positive test. Baranov’s affidavit named Russian endurance coach Alexei Melnikov, whom the WADA Independent Commission recommended be banned for life. It also named Valentin Balakhnichev, who resigned as President of the Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) in February 2014 and voluntarily stepped down as IAAF Treasurer while the IAAF Ethics Commission conducted its investigation.

That is almost eight months before the December 2014 documentary, ‘Geheimsache Doping – Wie Russland seine Sieger machete’ (Top Secret Doping – How Russia Makes its Winners) was aired by ARD, and almost nine months after a July 2013 Mail on Sunday investigation alleged that Russian athletics officials were complicit in athlete doping. Today’s BBC Panorama documentary alleged that former athlete David Bedford, the former Chairman of the IAAF Road Running Commission who had helped to put that affidavit together, had emailed it directly to Coe in August 2014 after the IAAF failed to take action – four months before ARD’s December 2014 documentary.

‘Seb has never denied hearing rumours about corruption’, reads the IAAF release. ‘In fact he has said on many occasions that when alerted to rumours he asked people to pass them on to the Ethics Commission to be investigated. He did receive an email from Dave Bedford that said “The attachments relate to an issue that is being investigated by the IAAF EC (Michael Beloff)”. This was enough for Seb Coe to forward the email to the Ethics Commission. He did not feel it was necessary to read the attachments. You may think this shows a lack of curiosity. He, and we, would argue that it shows a full duty of care. Ensuring the right people in the right place were aware of allegations and were investigating them.’

While it is debatable about how much Coe knew about allegations of corruption at the IAAF, he did mislead the CMS Committee over aspects of his electoral campaign. He emphatically denied ever having promised the 214 IAAF member federations $100,000 each should he take over from Lamine Diack as IAAF President. However, a press release – since deleted – issued on 24 July 2015 through the website of Presidential campaign did specifically promise this (see below), as this Athletics Weekly article and the screenshot below corroborate.

Other points of interest

• Papa Massata Diack denied ever having been involved in any part of corrupt payments concerning Liliya Shobukhova;
• Papa Massata Diack challenges investigators to prove that he is linked to Black Tidings, a company which WADA’s Independent Commission found was used to channel money connected to corrupt payments in sport;
• Nike Chairman Phil Knight and USA Track & Field Chairman Steve Miller did not return calls to questions on whether they had passed information about how they would vote in the 2015 IAAF Presidential election to Coe or Diack;
• Papa Diack told Coe to soften his “mantra” on doping;
• Papa Diack told Coe he had the support of 24 of the 30 African IAAF delegates he had spoken to – Coe won the Presidential election by 23 votes.


The allegations that Coe knew about corruption at the IAAF in advance of his election just won’t go away. This would not be such a problem for him had he admitted that he knew the IAAF was corrupt, but had to play along with the game in order to elected. Unfortunately, Coe made his bed when he initially claimed he didn’t know anything about the allegations. The credibility of this explanation continues to be eaten away.

To use the words of Jack Robertson, the former World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) investigator interviewed in the documentary, it now looks as if Coe has “got into bed” with the Diacks. Coe’s continued denial and refusal to answer questions only makes it look as if he does have something to hide.

What is more troubling is that Papa Diack’s comments which suggest that there was a concerted effort not to announce Russian doping positives in order not to derail not only the 2013 Moscow IAAF World Championships, but also the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics as well. If these allegations are true, then this suggests that the IOC may have been in on the act as well.

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