The latest installment of the seemingly never-ending doping investigation in track and field revealed that the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) was even more corrupt than originally thought. At a press conference in Munich on Thursday, the World Anti-Doping Agency’s follow-up investigation into the much ballyhooed Russian doping scandal that was first brought to light in early November found that, “The IAAF Council could not have been unaware of the extent of doping in Athletics and the non-enforcement of applicable anti-doping rules.”
Among a litany of other findings, Thursday’s 89-page report said that former IAAF president Lamine Diack—who was arrested in France last November on charges of corruption and money laundering—told a lawyer to cut a deal with Russian president Vladimir Putin to ensure nine Russian athletes accused of doping would not compete at the 2013 world championships in Moscow.
“The corruption that occurred within the IAAF was not at the level of some foreign currency trader in a bank carrying out unauthorized transactions, without the knowledge or permission of the responsible bank officers,” it says on page 46 of the report. “Here, it started with the President of the organization. It involved the Treasurer of the organization. It involved the personal counsel of the President, acting on instructions of the President. It involved two of the sons of the President. It involved the director of the Medical and Anti-Doping department of the IAAF. The corruption was imbedded in the organization.”
The report also details a sudden and massive increase ($6 million to $25 million) for Russian TV rights at the 2013 world championships, an arrangement led by Diack’s son, his lawyer, Russian bank VTB and Russian athletics federation head Valentin Balakhnichev, who also served as “honorary treasurer” of the IAAF. The report called for the IAAF to “undertake a forensic examination of the relationship and how the rights were awarded to determine whether there were any improprieties.”
This puts tremendous pressure on current IAAF president Sebastian Coe, a two-time Olympic champion runner who became an IAAF council member in 2003, vice president in 2007 and was elected president last August, to provide answers and restore faith in track and field’s crumbling governing body. Coe, who reluctantly stepped down from a paid ambassadorship role at Nike in November, insists he knew nothing about corruption or cover-ups within the organization.
Dick Pound, the former head of WADA who had led the last two independent investigations, seems to think Coe is the right man for the job, despite the intense scrutiny the former Olympic champion and world-record holder has faced from the media.
“As far as the ability of Lord Coe to remain at the head of the IAAF, I think it’s a fabulous opportunity for the IAAF to seize this opportunity and under strong leadership to move forward out of this,” Pound said at Thursday’s press conference. “There’s an enormous amount of reputational recovery to do here and, descending to personalities, I can’t think of anyone better than Lord Coe to lead that. So all out fingers are crossed in that respect.”
The Abbott World Marathon Majors—an organization of the world’s six premier marathons (Boston, New York, Berlin, London, Chicago and Tokyo)—was quick to release a statement on Thursday morning in support of the report from WADA and clean sport to maintain trust among marathon runners and fans.
“It is a shocking wake-up call not just for the IAAF, but for all international sports federations,” the statement said. “The AbbottWMM will continue to take every action possible to ensure that marathon running is a safe haven from doping. As we have said before, we cannot do this alone and have relied on the IAAF as our partners. We know that the IAAF will continue to be under close scrutiny and we support IAAF President Seb Coe’s plans for full-scale reforms within the organization. We want to work with the IAAF to ensure these reforms are delivered in the right way. We are determined to ensure that our sport is clean and well-managed.”
The statement also pointed out that the World Marathon Majors has created the world’s biggest privately funded anti-doping program, with more than 150 named athletes required to participate in a minimum of six out-of-competition tests each year (these tests are in addition to IAAF or National Federation tests). And it has revised its payment process for the series prize money so that the $500,000 prize purse for each individual series winner is paid out over a five-year period, thus enabling effective financial penalty if there are subsequent biological passport mapping issues.
In addition, any athlete who has been found guilty of any anti-doping rules enforced by the IAAF, WADA, National Federations or any of the individual marathons in the series is not eligible to win the AbbottWMM Series title. Furthermore, any athlete banned for more than six months by the IAAF, WADA, National Federations or any of the individual AbbottWMM races for a doping offence is banned for life from AbbottWMM Series races.