Track and Field Braces for Corruption Report’s Findings

Track and field’s profound crisis is expected to deepen on Monday when an independent commission appointed by the World Anti-Doping Agency presents its findings in Geneva.

This will come a week after French authorities placed Lamine Diack, the former president of track and field’s world governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations, under formal investigation on charges of corruption and money laundering, alleging that he demanded payments in exchange for suppressing positive drug tests.

The commission’s extensive report has the potential to be a watershed moment.

“All I would say is: Pay attention to it,” Craig Reedie, the president of WADA, said Sunday in an interview with BBC Radio. “I think it will be very robust in terms of what it was appointed to do.”

The commission, led by WADA’s founding president, Dick Pound, was appointed last December to investigate allegations made in a German television program of corruption and systematic doping in Russian track and field.

The sport has had no shortage of major doping scandals. But if the allegations of a cover-up against Diack and Russian track and field officials prove founded, it will represent a new low for a sport that remains one of the centerpieces of the Olympics.

“This report is going to be a real game changer for sport,” Richard McLaren, a prominent international sports lawyer who was one of the report’s co-authors, said in a comment released by Western University in Canada on Friday. “Unlike FIFA where you have a bunch of old men who put a whole lot of extra money in their pockets, here you potentially have a bunch of old men who put a whole lot of extra money in their pockets — through extortion and bribes — but also caused significant changes to actual results and final standings of international athletics competitions. This is a whole different scale of corruption than the FIFA scandal or the I.O.C. scandal in respect to Salt Lake City.”

The independent commission has no power to impose sanctions or make policy, but McLaren said he hoped its recommendations, to be announced Monday, would be rapidly implemented.

This crisis began in earnest last December with reports that a prominent Russian marathoner, Liliya Shobukhova, had alleged that Russian federation officials had extorted 450,000 euros from her in exchange for suppressing information concerning abnormalities in her biological passport. The alleged cover-up allowed her to compete at the 2012 London Olympics.

When she was eventually barred in 2014, Shobukhova is reported to have sought reimbursement from those she had accused of extortion. Her initial two-year ban was increased by 14 months on appeal from the I.A.A.F. to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. But WADA later reduced her ban by seven months after she provided what the organization called “substantial assistance.” She was reinstated in August.

That month, the German network ARD and The Sunday Times, a British newspaper, released previously confidential results from an I.A.A.F. database and concluded that there was widespread doping in endurance events and that the I.A.A.F. had failed to follow up on suspicious blood results. The I.A.A.F. has disputed the allegation.

WADA also assigned Pound’s independent commission to examine the veracity of those reports, but the commission is not expected to announce any findings related to that investigation on Monday.

The commission’s initial inquiry into Russia already has had significant repercussions with Reedie confirming to the BBC that the commission had passed on information to Interpol, which was then used by French law enforcement in its criminal investigation.

Eliane Houlette, France’s national financial prosecutor, told The Associated Press last week that Diack had received “more than one million euros” with “this money seemingly transmitted through the Russian athletics federation,” supposedly in exchange for suppressing results.

The French authorities were also investigating Gabriel Dollé, the former director of the I.A.A.F.’s antidoping department, and Habib Cissé, a former legal adviser to the I.A.A.F. Houlette said Diack’s son Papa Massata Diack, a former adviser to the I.A.A.F., is also believed to have played a role and would have been arrested if he had traveled to France recently as planned.

The I.A.A.F.’s own ethics commission is investigating the Shobukhova case and has announced, after Sebastian Coe, the new I.A.A.F. president, lifted confidentiality restrictions, that Papa Massata Diack and Dollé were among those facing disciplinary charges.

The others are Valentin Balakhnichev, the former president of Russia’s track federation, and Alexei Melnikov, a Russian racewalking coach. A hearing has been scheduled for Dec. 16 to 18 in London.

An 82-year-old from Senegal, Lamine Diack was president of the I.A.A.F. for 16 years before declining to run again this year. Coe, a former British middle-distance star who had served as an I.A.A.F. vice president for eight years, was elected president in August in Beijing shortly before the world championships. Coe later bid a warm public farewell to Lamine Diack, calling him the I.A.A.F.’s “spiritual president.”

“I’m well aware I’m going to come in for some criticism for those remarks,” Coe told BBC Radio on Sunday. “It does presume I had a list of allegations sitting in front of me at that moment. I didn’t. Should we in hindsight have had systems in place, should we have known more? Yes, probably we should have done, and that’s why I’ve accelerated these reforms at breakneck pace this week.”

Coe said on Sunday that he had no previous knowledge of any payments to Diack. Coe said his initial reaction was “clear shock, a great deal of anger and a lot of sadness.”

He confirmed that he had freely provided information to French law enforcement officials when they pursued their investigation at I.A.A.F. headquarters in Monaco. Coe also did not rule out a competition ban on Russia, where he recently made an official visit, although he said he preferred engagement.

“These are dark days for our sport,” he told the BBC. “But I’m more determined than ever to rebuild the trust in our sport. It’s not going to be a short journey.”




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