French police investigate claims athletes protected after failing drugs tests.
Former anti-doping director at IAAF, Dr Gabriel Dollé, taken into custod.


Athletics is facing the biggest scandal in its history after a former IAAF president and other senior officials were placed under investigation by French police following allegations Russian athletes were protected after failing drugs tests.

Those under scrutiny include Lamine Diack, the president of the International Association of Athletics Federations for 16 years until the Senegalese stepped down in August, who is being investigated for corruption and aggravated money laundering – and is suspecting of taking around €1m from the Russian athletics federation to cover up positive doping tests.

The Guardian understands the police investigation began in June after the World Anti-Doping Agency took the highly unusual step of going “mob-handed” – in the words of one source – into the offices of the IAAF in Monaco and leaving with a number of documents. These suggested evidence of criminal activity, which led Wada to alert Interpol, which has been building a case ever since.

French police have placed proceedings on a more formal footing by not only placing Diack under investigation but by taking Dr Gabriel Dollé, the former director of the IAAF’s medical and anti-doping department, into custody in Nice. Last December the Guardian broke the story that Dollé, who was once the most senior anti-doping official in track and field, had left the IAAF after being questioned by its ethics commission.

Another senior IAAF official, Habib Cissé – a legal adviser to Diack – was also placed under investigation for corruption by judges acting on evidence provided by Wada.

It has also been revealed the offices of track and field’s governing body were raided by police on Monday. One source told Reuters the new IAAF president, Sebastian Coe, who around at the time of the raid, had “volunteered himself to answer questions they wanted … But they did not come here to question Seb Coe.”

Even so, the investigation into Diack is embarrassing for Lord Coe – given that it was just over two months ago that he praised Diack personally, saying although he “ceases to be our president … he will always be our spiritual president and he will certainly be my spiritual president, so thank you Lamine for your help, your generosity of time, your guidance and above all your friendship; that is something that I will always treasure”.

Diack was unable to be reached for comment but an official quoted by the Associated Press said Diack is suspected of pocketing “about €1m” to cover up an undetermined number of doping positives. The money is thought to have come from the Russian athletics federation, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing.

The French news agency AFP claimed Diack had been charged with “passive corruption” and money laundering. Diack, who is Senegalese, was released on €500,000 bail, ordered to turn in his passport and not leave France, assistant prosecutor Jean-Yves Lourgouilloux said. Habib also is barred from leaving the country.

Much of the police’s focus into the IAAF is believed to centre on the case of the Russian marathon runner Liliya Shobukhova, who last year alleged two members of the Russian athletics federation extorted $450,000 from her in return for covering up a positive test .

The story, which surfaced in L’Equipe last December, was based on a deposition by Shobukhova’s agent Andrei Baranov to the IAAF’s ethics commission. L’Equipe’s story also suggested the money was used to pay off an IAAF official or officials to suppress Russian doping.

Shubhukhova was stripped of her London and Chicago marathon titles and banned for life for irregularities in her blood passport but was surprisingly allowed to return to competition in August.

The Russian sports minister, Vitaly Mutko told the news agency Tass on Wednesday that the old guard at the Russian athletics federation had been replaced but appeared to indicate that “criminal cases” were continuing. “We’ve already said that our federation had problems,” he said. “The old management isn’t working there any more. Understand that there are a lot of criminal cases going on in the world right now and those are unclear cases.”

The former president of Wada Dick Pound, who has been investigating allegations of systematic doping and cover-ups in Russia since December, will announce his findings in what could be a dramatic press conference on Geneva on Monday.

A separate investigation by the IAAF ethics commission, led by the highly respected QC Michael Beloff, is also looking at the activities of other former senior IAAF figures – although it is not thought that Beloff’s report is imminent.

Those being scrutinised include Diack’s son, Papa Massata Diack, who was forced to resign as a marketing executive after being accused of involvement in corruption aimed at covering up doping scandals in Russia, and Valentin Balakhnichev, a former IAAF treasurer who left his post as president of the Russian athletics federation after similar allegations were made against him.

In a statement the IAAF said it was co-operating with the police investigation: “The IAAF confirms that, emanating from separate ongoing investigations by Wada’s independent commission and the IAAF’s own independent ethics commission into allegations surrounding its anti-doping rules and regulations, a French police investigation has now commenced.

“The IAAF is fully cooperating with all investigations as it has been from the beginning of the process. As part of the French investigation, police visited the IAAF HQ offices to carry out interviews and to access documentation.”




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