Russia faces world athletics expulsion when doping report is published

Russia faces world athletics expulsion when doping report is publishedPressure is expected to grow for Russia to be expelled from world athletics after the publication of a key independent doping report in Geneva on Monday.

The 325-page review by Dick Pound, the former World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) president who has spent 11 months looking into claims of systemic cheating and cover-ups within Russian athletics and the sport’s governing body, is expected to call for remedial action against its athletics federation. Sebastian Coe, the president of the International Associations of Athletics Federations, said on Sunday that these were “dark days” for the sport and admitted the IAAF should have done more to prevent the alleged cover-up that emerged last week.

French police last week arrested Lord Coe’s predecessor, Lamine Diack, the IAAF legal adviser Habib Cissé and Gabriel Dollé, the former longstanding head of the IAAF’s anti-doping unit. Prosecutors said they would have arrested Diack’s son and former IAAF marketing consultant, Papa Massata Diack, if he had been in France at the time.

Diack, the IAAF president for 16 years, is accused by French police of accepting more than €1m in exchange for covering up positive drug tests. “I’m just angry, bloody angry,” said Coe, who was elected IAAF president in August but had previously been vice-president under Diack. “I’m angry about the position our sport is in today. I’m shocked, I’m angered and dismayed.”

On Monday morning Tessa Jowell, the former Olympics minister, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that she believed Coe would be ruthless in dealing with the alleged problems inside the IAAF, “because it’s absolutely clear that there is something that’s very wrong”.

She said: “This is of course what destroys public faith in the competition that they watch on their televisions or that they go to see. I think there is a problem, very clearly a problem of culture.”

Jowell, who oversaw preparations for the 2012 Olympics in London between 2005 and 2010, said there was a need for better integration between national and international governing bodies and Wada, and called for more research into the science behind doping to catch those taking banned substances. She also advocated life-bans for drug cheats. “That is the kind of draconian measure I think that begins to alter the culture,” she said.

Evidence from Pound’s investigation suggests a Turkish gold medallist at London 2012 who tested positive, the 1500m runner Asli Cakir Alptekin, was a victim of a blackmail attempt. But the main focus of the report is expected to be on the allegations of systemic doping in Russia and associated claims of cover-up and corruption that first emerged in a documentary by the German broadcaster ARD last December.

Wada could theoretically declare Russia non-compliant with its code within the next fortnight but that would put the onus back on the IAAF and the International Olympic Committee over what action to take.

Asked whether he would consider casting Russia out of the sport, Coe said his instinct was to promote reform from within but would “never say never”. Over the weekend Richard McLaren, the experienced Canadian lawyer who was one of three independent Wada commissioners who completed the report, said it would be a “game-changer” for sport.

He said that because the allegations centred on subverting events on the field of play it was a scandal of a different magnitude even from those at Fifa and the International Olympic Committee over Salt Lake City.

ARD implicated officials in Russia’s athletics federation, anti-doping agency (Rusada) and a Wada-accredited laboratory in Moscow in acts of bribery to hush up positive doping tests, falsify tests and supply banned drugs.

ARD alleged the former Chicago Marathon winner Liliya Shobukhova paid €450,000 to Russian officials linked to the then-IAAF treasurer Valentin Balakhnichev, who threatened her with a doping ban before the London Games.

When Shobukhova was banned for two years in 2014 her husband reportedly received a €300,000 ($345,000) refund payment linked to Balakhnichev.

“If these allegations are proven, then clearly bad people have manipulated a system. Will we have better checks and balances to ensure bad people don’t get into those positions in future? Yes,” Coe told the BBC.

“In hindsight, should those systems have been in place? Probably. My responsibility is to build a sport that is accountable, responsible and responsive. But it is going to be a long road.” Coe faces an uphill task to restore public trust in a sport shaken by a series of doping scandals and now undermined by corruption allegations that go to the very top of its governing body.

“Public trust will not come quickly. We need to look at ourselves here. This is not something we can absolve ourselves of,” he said. “This is a very, very bad moment for our sport and it has to start with change. But I am determined to push that change through.”

Its own independent ethics committee, which has been looking into the Russian claims since the spring of 2014, will conduct hearings in December against Papa Massata Diack, Dollé, Balakhnichev and Alexei Melnikov, the former Russian long distance head coach.

Source: Guardian
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