KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS —- The latest devastating assault on the tattered credibility of world athletics has brought life bans on three senior personalities within both the sport and the IAAF – punishments which will raise further questions over endemic corruption which extends directly to results in the major track and field events including the Olympic Games and world championships.
An ethics commission of the International Association of Athletics Federations has imposed life bans on marketing consultant Papa Massata Diack, the son of the ex-IAAF president Lamine Diack, the former head of Russian athletics Valentin Balakhnichev and the country’s former head coach Aleksey Melnikov. Also banned, in his case for five years, was Gabrielle Dolle, the IAAF’s former head of anti-doping.
A panel headed by London QC Michael Beloff found all four men guilty of committed multiple breaches of anti-doping rules and involvement in the attempted cover up of positive drugs tests.
The verdicts fully justified the allegations of blackmail made in an ARD German television programme by marathon runner Liliya Shobukhova, who has since gone into hiding.
The TV programme was denounced as “a declaration of war on my sport” by newly-appointed IAAF president Lord Sebastian Coe.
The report makes clear that the only ‘war’ against the sport was being carried out within its own corridors of power.
Balakhnichev was not only head of the Russian athletics federation ARAF but treasurer of the IAAF.
An independent inquiry led by veteran IOC member Dick Pound by the World Anti-Doping Agency reported last November on irrefutable evidence of a state-sponsored culture of doping in Russia, carried on since the Soviet era. ARAF’s suspension means Russian athletes may not be able to compete at this year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Worse news for athletics is expected next week when Pound delivers a further report which is expected to review, among issues, the involvements of Diack father and son.
However, significantly, Beloff’s panel makes clear in its 170-page report that, while it was aware of the Pound report, it did not rely on it and based its decisions on the evidence it had uncovered for itself.
Shobukhova, a former London marathon winner, was effectively blackmailed into paying her own Russian ‘controllers’ $600,000 to have positive dope tests covered up.
The report stated: “The panel considers in the light of its findings that VB (Balakhnichev), AM (Melnikov) and PMD (Diack) should be banned for life from any further involvement in any way in the sport of track and field.
“Any lesser sanction would not meet the gravity of their offences.
“In GD’s (Dolle’s) case such ban is also appropriate but in his case for five years only. His sins were those of omission, not commission.”
Balakhnichev and Diack were also fined $25,000 and Melnikov $15,000.
The French police and Interpol are undertaking their own inquitires into the saga as well as into corruption claims involving other IAAF officials but the commission said there had been no requests for an adjournment because of those investigations.
Russia’s R-Sport agency reported that Balakhnichev had described the ban as “politicised” and said that he intended to appeal.