Four senior IAAF officials handed bans on corruption charges
Ethics committee report claims three blackmailed athletes into giving them bribes
Papa Massata Diack, Valentin Balakhnichev and Alexei Melnikov banned for life
Bribes, blackmails, positive doping tests, corruption and now bans.
The crisis engulfing the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) escalated Thursday, as four of its senior officials were sanctioned on corruption charges.
A report by the IAAF’s ethics committee claims a powerful trio blackmailed Russian distance runner Lilya Shobukhova into paying them off to keep results of her positive drug tests secret.
It also alleges the Russian deputy minister for sport was told by the country’s former athletics federation president Valentin Balakhnichev that it had been blackmailed by the IAAF since 2011, a claim Balakhnichev denies.
Former IAAF consultant Papa Massata Diack, as well as Balakhnichev and Russia’s former chief coach for long-distance athletes Alexei Melnikov, have all been banned for life. Diack is the son of ex-world athletics chief Lamine Diack.
The IAAF’s former anti-doping director Gabriel Dollé has been given a five-year ban.
In one of the report’s most damning passages, it is claimed the breaches committed by Diack, Balakhnichev and Melnikov “need no hyperbolic exaggeration.”
“The head of a national Federation, the senior coach of a major national team and a marketing consultant for the IAAF conspired together … to conceal for more than three years anti-doping violations by an athlete at what appeared to be the highest pinnacle of her sport,” it reads.
The actions of Balakhnichev and Melnikov were “the antithesis of what was appropriate,” it says.
“Far from supporting the anti-doping regime, they subverted it, and, in so doing, allowed Shobukhova to compete in two marathons when she should not have done so, to the detriment of her rivals in those races and the integrity of the competition,” the report continues.
“All three compounded the vice of what they did by conspiring to extort what were in substance bribes from Shobukhova by acts of blackmail.
“They acted dishonestly and corruptly and did unprecedented damage to the sport of track and field which, by their actions, they have brought into serious disrepute.”
The report claims Russian deputy minister for sport Yuri Nagornyh reported he had been told by Balakhnichev that a system had been formulated to allow athletes with abnormal blood passport profiles to continue competing in exchange for cash payments.
It is also claimed that Lamine Diack’s legal adviser personally oversaw the management of biological passport cases involving Russian athletes.
In a statement, the IAAF said it was “angered to see that individuals have in the panel’s finding “conspired to extort what were in substance bribes from the athlete by acts of blackmail.”
IAAF president Seb Coe said the bans “could not send a stronger message that those who attempt to corrupt or subvert the sport of athletics will be brought to justice.”
Papa Massata Diack, his father, Dollé and Balakhnichev are also being investigated by French police on similar charges.
Recently, prosecutors upgraded the charges against Lamine Diack from “passive” corruption to “active” corruption, meaning it alleges he offered cash or other promises for breaking the rules.
Papa Massata Diack, Balakhnichev, Melnikov and Dollé were not immediately available for comment.
Diack and former Russian athletic federation president and IAAF treasurer Balakhnichev face fines of $25,000 while Russian coach Melnikov could be fined $15,000.
Last month Nick Davies, the IAAF Deputy General Secretary, resigned over allegations he formulated a secret plan to delay the naming of Russian drug cheats ahead of the organization’s flagship competition.
He denied any wrongdoing and said he was stepping aside because he “had become the story.”
French prosecutors have also confirmed they are probing an IAAF decision to hand the 2021 World Championships to Eugene.
The city, in the U.S. state of Oregon, was chosen in April this year without the usual bidding process that is associated with awarding big events even though the Swedish city of Gothenburg was also interested.
The IAAF told CNN Sport it would reopen the bidding process should any corruption be uncovered by the French but insisted it stood by its decision to award the games to Eugene.
Russia was provisionally suspended as an IAAF member in November following a damning report by the former head of the World Anti-Doping Agency that claimed the country had engaged in widespread and state-sponsored doping.
Read: French prosecutors to probe 2021 World Championships award
Read: Doping in sport: The human misery of state-sponsored doping