News 23 January 2016

Russian bank preparing legal action over WADA report

Russian bank VTB (ВТБ) is preparing legal action over suggestions made by the Independent Commission of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) that a US$25 million sponsorship deal agreed with the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) was suspicious. In its second report, released on 14 January, the WADA Commission found that ‘the process of awarding the Moscow Championships broadcasting rights and the entry of VTB Bank as a sponsor of the IAAF require forensic examination to ensure legitimacy of the process applied’.

“I have issued relevant orders to my lawyers”, Andrey Kostin, President and Chairman of the VTB Bank Management Board, told the Russia 24 (Россия-24) TV channel. “We are preparing lawsuits at the moment. We will be filing lawsuits against all 10 ‘passengers,’ who signed their names under the reports of the Commission. We will see them in court. At the moment we are trying to decide on the jurisdiction for the lawsuits as there are nationals from Canada, the United States and Europe. We will make them feel nervous and go to courts to show responsibility for their words. Because it is simply not good tarnishing the image of Russia and of Russian companies just for nothing.”

How such legal action would manifest itself into charges remains to be seen, as the WADA Independent Commission report did not directly accuse VTB of acting improperly. However, it implied that collusion had occurred between the IAAF and the Russian athletics federation (ARAF) over the awarding of TV 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 Commission’s report.

The WADA Commission found that an ‘issue’ had arisen regarding the awarding of the TV rights to the 2013 World Championships. It is understood that the IAAF was unhappy with the amount fetched by the sale of TV rights to the Championships. This ‘issue’ is described in the report as having a $6 million price tag. ‘At this point PMD [Papa Massata Diack] was able to bring in a sponsorship arrangement with the VTB Bank worth $25 million US’, reads its report, which has been taken to mean that the sponsorship deal was arranged to cover the shortfall in TV rights income. ‘If the foregoing information on the awarding of the Championships and the sponsorship arrangement is true; then, the IAAF should undertake a forensic examination of the relationship and how the rights were awarded to determine whether there were any improprieties.’

The ten ‘passengers’ referred to by Kostin are understood to be Dick Pound, WADA’s first President and Chairman of the Independent Commission; Canadian lawyer and Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) Arbitrator Richard McLaren; Günter Younger, Head of the Department Cybercrime with Bavaria’s Landeskriminalamt (LKA); WADA’s Chief Investigations Officer Jack Robertson; and the investigation’s team: David Tinsley, Martin Dubbey, Brian Talay, Nick Connon, Greg Kitsell and Gabriella Re.

On 20 January, the IAAF told the Sports Integrity Initiative that its forensic review of operations and finance will encompass all sponsorship and TV deals, not just those connected to staff the IAAF has banned for corruption, such as Papa Massata Diack. VTB agreed a five-year deal to sponsor the IAAF from 2007 until 2011 in 2006, extending this to cover the 2013 Moscow IAAF World Championships in 2012 in a deal arranged by Papa Massata Diack, son of former IAAF President Lamine Diack.

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