Demonising Justin Gatlin
13th September 2015
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) attempted to prevent Hajo Seppelt, the investigative journalist behind the ‘Geheimsache Doping’ documentary that exposed systematic doping in Russia, from speaking at Tackling Doping in Sport 2015. Seppelt said that he had received a letter from the IAAF drafted by law firm Bird & Bird, asking him not to speak and threatening him with legal action if he unveiled the evidence behind his documentary. Bird & Bird confirmed that it had written the letter. Seppelt (pictured) is also scheduled to speak at the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Anti-Doping Organisation Symposium in Lausanne, 24-26 March.
“They said that they would be very grateful if I would tell them in advance what I would show at [both] conferences”, Seppelt said in a media briefing. “If I am to use documentary footage, they would like to know what type of footage – is it new, old, whatever. Then, they told me that I have no credibility, and urged me not to disturb the WADA investigation into Russia and the IAAF. Then they said if I were to release any research material – and they think it might be internal IAAF material – they say they will take legal action against me. This is unbelievable.”
WADA and the IAAF are currently investigating allegations made in the documentary, which German broadcaster ARD aired in two parts on 3 and 7 December 2014. In the documentary, former Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) official Vitaly Stepanov and his wife Yulia Stepanova – an 800m runner who was banned for doping – allege that Russian athletics officials supplied banned substances and colluded with doping officials to cover up positive tests in exchange for 5% of an athlete’s earnings. You can read more about allegations made in the documentary here. Seppelt showed excerpts to the audience at Tackling Doping in Sport. “It is important to recognise that this situation is a product of sport”, he told delegates. “We need to think about that”.
Former Russian athletics federation (VFLA) President Valentin Balakhnichev, who has suspended himself from his role as IAAF Treasurer investigations continue, has said that he is confident Russia will be cleared of systematic doping. “The IAAF investigation isn’t even finished yet, but colleagues in international organisations are supporting us, and they adhere to the opinion that there was no truth in the Stepanovs’ statements”, he told the TASS news agency.
Last year, the VFLA said that it was considering legal action over the claims made in the documentary, but such legal action has yet to materialise. ‘Currently, ARAF are exploring all possibilities provided by Russian and German law to protect their rights, including action against those responsible for disseminating defamatory information’, it said in a 5 December 2014 statement. It is understood that the VFLA will wait for the IAAF and WADA to complete its investigations before deciding whether to continue with legal action.
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