Demonising Justin Gatlin
13th September 2015
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has been investigating allegations that Russian sporting officials colluded with IAAF officials to cover up positive doping tests since April 2014 and possibly as far back as July 2013, it has emerged. Until 6 November this year, the rules of the IAAF Ethics Commission prevented it from disclosing how its investigation was progressing until any disciplinary procedures for breaches of the IAAF’s Code of Ethics were disclosed. On Friday 6 November, these restrictions were lifted, which allowed the Ethics Commission to report on the progress of its investigation (see below).
It has emerged that Russian sports agent Andrei Baranov wrote a signed affidavit to the IAAF in April 2014, detailing how Russian sport officials had colluded with IAAF officials to allow Liliya Shobukhova to compete at the London 2012 Olympics, despite a 2011 positive test. Baranov told The Guardian that his 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 (ARAF) in February 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.
After ARD’s December documentary, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said that it had ‘already received some information and evidence of the type exposed in the documentary. All of that information has been passed to the appropriate independent body within the international federation, the IAAF. We will await the outcome of that independent body’s deliberations.’
Baranov’s affidavit also named Gabriel Dollé, former Director of the IAAF’s Medical & Anti-Doping Department; Habib Cissé, Legal Advisor to former IAAF President Lamine Diack; and Papa Massata Diack, Lamine’s son. All four are understood to be under investigation by Interpol, following the arrest of Diack and Dollé by French police last week.
In August 2015, the IAAF Ethics Commission recommended that charges be brought against Papa Massata Diack, Balakhnichev, Melnikov and Dollé for ‘various alleged breaches of the IAAF Code of Ethics’. Charges were sent to the four in September 2015 and a hearing will take place in London over 16-18 December 2015. The Ethics Commission also said that an ‘investigation is also ongoing in respect of an additional person’.
Baranov, who acted as agent for Shobukhova, explained how she has been assisting the IAAF and WADA with its investigations. In August, WADA ended her sanction early for providing ‘substantial assistance’, after she approached WADA in May 2014.
The UK’s Culture, Media & Sport (CMS) select committee, which opened an inquiry into blood doping in athletics on 4 September, will hear evidence from IAAF President Sebastian Coe (pictured). It is understood that the CMS Committee is keen to question Coe, who was Vice President of the IAAF from 2007, on his knowledge of the allegations levelled at the IAAF. In an interview (featured below), Channel 4’s Jon Snow questioned Coe on whether he either knew about what was going on at the IAAF, or should have known. The date of the hearing will be announced later today or tomorrow, a spokesperson confirmed.
A Russian Ministry of Sport statement released yesterday said that the recent revelations ‘were not a surprise to us’, however reiterated that it and the Russian athletics federation (ARAF) have put measures in place to remedy the ‘problems in the Russian federation of athletics’. It pointed to changes in the ARAF leadership, a new head coach and rejuvenation of the coaching staff as evidence that it is tackling these problems.
“Athletes dope because they don’t trust the mechanisms that are responsible for anti-doping control”, said Russian Minister for Sport Vitaly Mutko in an interview with Ruptly TV (featured below). “They don’t believe in their independence, because they see things addressed in the same way that Russia is now being treated…We will respect any commissions that are appointed to look into this and we will provide whatever information is needed, but fighting the use of doping is in the hands of specific international organisations – it is up to them.”
“We are often accused of not acting enough or of setting up our own commission to investigate”, continued Mutko. “I think that all these accusations are being levelled today to once again cast a shadow on Russian sport and I hope that international institutions will show themselves to be mature and see through these allegations.
“There are double standards”, said Mutko. “All of the conclusions of the Commission say that we don’t have confirmation that the government interferes, but we believe that it does – we don’t have proof, but we believe that they are guilty. You can’t go on like this – it’s offensive. The country has done so much to provide support for sport, promote youth sport and professional sport, yet all the time we have to prove ourselves.”
On 17 November, the WADA Executive Committee will meet in Colorado Springs, followed by a meeting of the WADA Foundation Board on 18 November. The Foundation Board meeting will consider the recommendations of the WADA Independent Commission report that apply to WADA. A press conference will follow the meeting, however a WADA spokesperson confirmed that video or teleconference facilities will not be available.
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