Track and field faces explosive charges

IAAF president Sebastian Coe implicated
IAAF president Sebastian Coe, right, stands with Kenya's Asbel Kiprop after winning the Emsley Carr mile in London. Coe is implicated by the World Anti-Doping Agency of knowing that criminal behavior was taking place in track and field.
IAAF president Sebastian Coe, right, stands with Kenya's Asbel Kiprop after winning the Emsley Carr mile in London. Coe is implicated by the World Anti-Doping Agency of knowing that criminal behavior was taking place in track and field.

Top officials running the sport of track and field have for years abused their positions and possibly engaged in criminal behavior, blackmailing athletes who doped and failing to discipline them in a timely fashion, according to a report released Thursday by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

The 89-page report was the result of an investigation by a task force that spent the past year examining allegations of widespread doping and corruption. It raised questions about past leaders of the sport who were already under criminal investigation, as well as the sport’s celebrated current leader, Sebastian Coe, a two-time Olympic gold medalist who was in charge of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

The first part of the group’s inquiry concluded in November, with a report that accused Russia of a state-sponsored doping program. Those findings prompted track and field’s governing body to suspend Russia from global competition, jeopardizing its participation in this summer’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

The investigation’s second report, released Thursday in Munich, shifted attention from Russia to the ruling body overseeing the sport globally: the International Association of Athletics Federations.

Well before the antidoping commission’s investigation, the IAAF knew the extent of Russia’s drug abuse, Dick Pound, an author of the report, said. Top officials, the inquiry found, were complicit in keeping tainted athletes in competition, extorting money from athletes and delaying the processing of drug test violations.

Unlike Russian coaches, trainers, doctors and state police — whom the commission accused of actively destroying drug samples — IAAF officials did not erase records, but rather delayed filing them, expecting that inaction might make matters go away, the inquiry found.

The report raised new questions about how compromised sports officials can be in investigating and disciplining doping violations, calling the corruption embedded in the organization.

“It cannot be ignored or dismissed as attributable to the odd renegade acting on his own,” it said. “It is increasingly clear that far more IAAF staff knew about the problems than has currently been acknowledged.”

The IAAF did not reply to request for immediate comment.

Lamine Diack, the organization’s longtime president until August, solicited illegal payments in exchange for such delayed processing of paperwork, the report said, and in at least one instance advised a lawyer he needed to consult Russian President Vladimir Putin, who had become a friend, regarding the doping violations of nine Russian athletes.

Diack, of Senegal, also hired his two sons as consultants to the organization, drawing them into his schemes, the inquiry found.

Diack is under criminal investigation in France, authorities there announced last year, as are Habib Cisse, Diack’s legal adviser, and Gabriel Dollé, a former director of the IAAF’s antidoping division. None are working for the IAAF any longer.

Interpol, the international police organization, is also leading an ongoing global investigation into corruption within track and field. The organization has put out a wanted notice for one of Diack’s son, Papa Massata Diack.

Because of the systemic nature of the corruption, the report suggested, Coe, the current president of the IAAF who spent seven years as Diack’s vice president, would likely have been aware of the alleged criminal behavior. Coe has denied any knowledge of nefarious activity at the IAAF.

In taking questions at Thursday’s news conference, Pound found himself in the curious position of both seeming to implicate Coe, but also defending him.

“Giving an opinion as to whether he lied or not,” Pound said, assessing his knowledge of the extent of the corruption: “I’d say he didn’t lie.”

Pound repeatedly attributed the allegations to an “institutional failure.”

Coe has recognized in recent weeks that the sport, and his organization specifically, are in crisis. Last week, he announced that he had hired a team of outside lawyers and accountants to conduct an internal investigation at the IAAF, and that he planned to institute stricter organizational controls and double the antidoping budget by midyear.

“I don’t want to lay the failures of an entire council and its governance process at the feet of one individual,” Pound said.

The three-person commission that authored Thursday’s report was created in December 2014. It consisted of Pound, founding president of the World Anti-Doping Agency; Richard H. McLaren, a Canadian lawyer; and Günter Younger, the head of cybercrime for the police in the German state Bavaria.

The commission’s investigation was inspired by reports from the German public broadcaster ARD, which released a documentary in December 2014 focused on doping in Russian athletics.

In August, ARD and The Sunday Times of London released a second report regarding the leaked results of thousands of blood tests of international athletes dating to 2001. Those results showed 1 in 7 athletes had abnormal blood test results — reportedly including celebrated athletes with clean records — prompting the antidoping commission to widen the focus of its inquiry.

In its report, the commission said it had reviewed all blood tests from 2001 to 2015 and found that the IAAF had, in fact, done a fine job in following up on suspicious tests. The report concluded that the leaked data was not grounds on which to conclude that an athlete had or had not used drugs, and that in most suspicious cases, the IAAF had ordered follow-up urine tests, required of athletes whose blood tests suggest blood doping.

The report’s message was of a corrupt administration more than an international culture of widespread cheating among athletes.

Invoking scandals at FIFA, world soccer’s governing body, and the International Olympic Committee, Pound said the significance of the IAAF’s corruption was unique in affecting the outcome of competitions.

“It’s not just a bunch of people sitting a table passing money to each other,” he said. “You’ve got to have 21st-century governance even if it’s an organization that’s 19th century in origin.”

Categories: Sports

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