Doping in athletics - a review of the findings IAAF Ethics Commission and WADA IC Report #2


Published 15 April 2016 | Authored by: Paul J. Greene Sean Cottrell

The revelations are stunning and seem better placed in a Hollywood movie script than a report about the conduct - or more appropriately termed, the misconduct -of sports executives running one of the world’s highest profile international federations.

The decision of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF1 Ethics Commission (“EC”) and the 2nd report of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)2 Independent Commission were issued just 7 days apart.

The findings revealed detailed staggering acts of blackmail and the covering up of positive doping tests committed by former IAAF President Lamine Diack his his sons, Papa Massata Diack and Khalil Diack and their accomplices (detailed below).

The reports left more questions than answers for most in the global track and field community. How could this happen? How many IAAF executives knew what was going on? Where will the IAAF and the sport of track and field go from here?

One question lingering in the wake of the reports was whether new IAAF President, Lord Sebastian Coe, had any idea of the malfeasance that was occurring? The question was answered in the negative by the Chair of the WADA Independent Commission, Richard W. Pound, QC, who instead gave Coe his blessing to continue on in the role he assumed in August 2015. When Pound was asked in a press conference unveiling the report, “Given what you have said about the IAAF council, and that it must have known what was going on in Russia, do you believe Lord Coe’s position remains tenable?3 Mr. Pound answered:

I think it’s a fabulous opportunity for the IAAF to seize this opportunity and under strong leadership to move forward... There is an enormous amount of reputational recovery that has to occur here but I can’t think of anyone better thanLord Coeto lead that... I don’t want to lay the failures of an entire council at the feet of one individual... My sense is if Lord Coe knew about corruption he would have said something about it.4

The corruption at the heart of the two reports centered on the All-Russia Athletic Federation (“ARAF”) and the suppression of findings of anti-doping rules violations by Lilya Shobukhova (a Russian marathoner who won the 2009, 2010 and 2011 Chicago Marathons and the 2010 London Marathon and became one of the best paid athletes in the world earning up to $1.5 million in the years 2009-2011) and the exaction of monies from Shobukhova by officials from the ARAF and the IAAF to keep positive doping tests quiet, which enabled her to continue to compete in athletics competitions.5 Shobukhova’s case was the highest profile of 23 Russian athletes who were reported to have had suspicious Athlete Biological Passport (“ABP”) data that was cover-up by the IAAF.6

 

The IAAF EC Decision

The four Defendants brought before the Commission on charges they violated the IAAF Code of Ethics were

  1. Valentin Balakhnichev (“VB”), the former President of the ARAF and Honorary Treasurer of the IAAF;
  2. Alexei Melnikov (“AM”), former Senior ARAF coach for long distance runners;
  3. Dr. Gabriel Dollé (“GD”), former Director of the IAAF’s Anti-Doping Department; and
  4. Papa Massata Diack, son of former IAAF President Lamine Diack and former IAAF marketing consultant.7

The IAAF EC Panel, following an independent investigation by the Right Honourable Sir Anthony Hooper (a former Court of Appeal judge in England), who was appointed by Chairman of the Independent EC of the IAAF, Michael Beloff QC, concluded that VB, AM and Diack were involved in a corruption scheme in 2011-2012 to extort $320,000 US dollars in return for a cover-up of Shobukhova’s atypical ABP findings while GD was guilty of an “inexcusable lack of due care and diligence rather than of corruption."8

Timeline of key events

  • On 18 November 2011, Shobukhova’s ABP data was referred to an expert three-member IAAF scientific panel, which opined on the 29 November 2011 and 7 December 2011,9 that it was highly likely, absent a satisfactory explanation from Shobukhova, that her ABP was the result of the use of a prohibited substance or method. In consequence, the three-member scientific panel recommended an abrupt halt to the ratification of Shobukhova’s world record for 30km set in the 2011 Chicago Marathon.10
  • No appropriate steps of any kind were taken against Shobukhova until 12 June 2012.11 Shobukhova made three “hush money” payments: $100,000 on 27 December 2011, $100,000 on 5 June 2012 and $120,000 on 19 June 2012.12
  • The IAAF anti-doping department informed VB on 12 June 2012 that it was considering bringing charges against Shobukhova for an anti-doping violation unless she admitted the violation by 19 June 2012 and accepted a sanction, or provided an explanation by 26 June 2012. No such charges were ever brought by the ARAF against Shobukhova.13

    The standard IAAF procedure for handing the notification of a doping violation was not followed. Normally a letter would have been sent to the national anti-doping agency, in this instance that would be the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (“RUSDA”). Instead of the normal procedure being followed, Habib Cissé, outside counsel for L. Diack, took charge of the letter and delivered this by hand to VB before passing the signed letter to GD, the then Director of the IAAF’s Anti-Doping Department.
  • At no time before then or thereafter did GD exercise his powers to provisional suspend Shobukhova from competition.14
  • Shobukhova was still permitted to compete in the London Olympics 2012 and in the 2012 Chicago Marathon.15 Shobukhova was not subjected to any blood tests throughout 2012.16
  • Huw Roberts (“HW”), Legal Counsel at the IAAF “at some point in the fourth quarter of 2012” became aware there “were delays in progressing a number of the Russian cases”. In the last working day before Christmas, a colleague informed Mr Roberts “that 6 Russian ABP cases, including that of Ms Shobukhova, remained unresolved”. Mr Roberts arranged to meet with L Diack to discuss this on the 8 January 2013 in Dakar.
  • Sometime in December 2012, L Diack and a lawyer, Habib Cissé, who acted for the IAAF and also served as L Diack’s legal advisor, and VB met in Moscow.17
  • Over the next year, no action was taken on Shobukhova’s case.18
  • In January 2013, Shobukhova realised she was pregnant and was not able to compete. She gave birth to her child in September 2013.
  • On 8 January 2013 Mr Roberts met with L Diack, who confirmed there was an agreement “not to proceed with 6 Russian ABP cases19 Mr Roberts offered his resignation that L Diack refused.
  • On 15 February 2013, GD sent a letter to VB advising the that ARAF needed to confirm in writing that he had informed the athletes of the content of previous letters advising of the adverse analytical ABP findings, to notify them of their right to provide an explanation, or alternatively to accept a provisional suspension pending resolution of their case by ARAF. In this letter, there was an “urgent request” to provide an “update regarding the case of Ms Shobukhova”.20
  • In April 2013, Mr Roberts met with L Diack who assured him “that the Russian ABP cases would all be dealt with in due time in accordance with IAAF Rules but there was a concern in the short term about how the cases might have a negative impact upon the World Championships which were due to be held in Moscow that summer.21

  • In July 2013 the number of Russian ABP cases rose from 6 to 9. Mr Roberts again “tendered” his resignation from the IAAF for a second time as Mr Roberts explained: “Again, he refused to accept the resignation and assured me that no Russian athlete on the entry list with a pending ABP case would compete at the World Championships in Moscow”.

  • In August 2013, Mr Roberts was informed that none of the Russian athletes with ABP cases would compete in the World Championships in Moscow.

  • On Mr Roberts return from the World Championships in Moscow Mr Roberts had another meeting with L Diack in Monaco where Mr Roberts was informed, “that the outstanding Russian ABP cases would all be resolved by 31 October 2013”.
  • The Russian ABP cases remained outstanding after the 31 October 2013. Mr Roberts spoke with Mr Thiaré, the IAAF President's Director of Cabinet, as L Diack was present and he him that he “would wait until the end of the year and that, if the cases had still not been resolved by then..[he] would resign from the IAAF for a final time.

  • At the end of 2013, the six Russian ABP cases mentioned above remained outstanding. At this point Mr Roberts “resigned with effect from 11 April 2014 because the cases had still not been resolved”.

  • In November/December 2013, Shobukhova told AM (her coach) that “she wanted to return to training and competition in 2014”.
  • In December 2013, Shobukhova started training again. At the end of December “AM notified Liliya [Shobukhova] that she would have trouble competing in 2014”.22
  • On 24 January 2014, Shobukhova along with her husband, flew to Moscow for a meeting with AM who informed her she “was banned from athletics due to problems with her ABP.“23 The report says that Shobukhova’s husband said that Melinikov told them “they would probably need more money” if Shobukhova was to be able to compete.
  • On 3 March 2014, GD wrote to VB to conclude Shobukhova’s case and impose a sanction.24
  • On 12 March 2014, Shobukhova, her husband, VB and AM met in Moscow to discuss whether Shobukhova would sign the acceptance of sanction form.25
  • On 28 March 2014, €300,000 was transferred out of an account in Singapore from account held by a company called Black Tidings, an account associated with P Diack and a Ianton Tan (an associate of P Diack), to Shobukhova’s husband and a bank confirmation was sent to VB who forwarded it to AM and Shobukhova’s husband. This return payment was an effort cover up the earlier blackmail payments.26, 27 According to Ianton Tan the payment was requested through an individual called Mr. Jean Pierre Bonnot who according to Tan “claimed to be managing trust funds (tax optimization) for top track & field athletes [in Russia]”. Mr Bonnot could not be contacted during the IAAF EC investigation.28
  • On the same day, 28 March 2014, an acceptance of sanction form was “signed” by Shobukhova, though it appeared that the signature on the sanction form was forged.29
  • On 9 April 2014, the ARAF decided that Shobukhova was guilty of an anti-doping rules violation and sanctioned for 2 years.30
  • On 10 April 2014, the IAAF received notice of the ARAF Anti-Doping Commission’s decision in a letter.
  • In April 2014, the IAAF EC received a complaint from Sean Wallace-Jones, the Senior Manager, Road Running of the IAAF, who had been had become aware of the Shobukhova case through her agent. A complaint was at that time necessary for the initiation of EC disciplinary procedures.31
  • On 1 July 2014, the Chairman of the EC, the Honourable Michael J Beloff QC, determined that there was a case fit for investigation and appointed the Right Honourable Sir Anthony Hooper to investigate the allegations made and issues raised by the complaint.32
  • On 5 August 2015, Sir Anthony submitted his investigation report to the EC recommending that disciplinary charges be brought against all four Defendants for various alleged breaches of the Code.
  • On 14 August 2015, Kevan Gosper, a member of the EC, who had reviewed the outcome of the investigation and the investigator’s recommendations, endorsed the recommendations, in consequence of which the Chairman directed that adjudicatory proceedings be commenced.

  • Over 16-18 December 2015, a hearing took place in London. None of the Defendants appeared in person at the hearing.
  • On the 7 January 2016 the EC panel of The Honourable Michael J Beloff QC (Chairman), Mr Akira Kawamura and Mr Thomas Murray handed down their decision.

Outcome of the Investigation

As a result of VB, AM and Diack’s involvement in a corruption scheme to extort $320,000 US dollars in return for a cover-up of Shobukhova’s atypical ABP findings, each was banned for life from any further involvement in the sport of track and field since “any lesser sanction would not meet the gravity of their offences.33 Fines were also levied: VB - $25,000, AM - $25,000 and Diack - $15,000.

GD was suspended for 5 years (but not fined) because of his failure to take meaningful action until 2014, which was found to be a patent dereliction of his duties as the Director of the IAAF Medical and Anti-Doping Department.34

Each Defendant was also ordered to pay $42,593 in costs.35

 

The WADA Independent Commission Report Part 2

The WADA Independent Commission Report Part 2 independently confirmed the findings of the IAAF EC Report. The WADA Independent Commission determined that, Lamine Diack, as President of the IAAF, created a close inner circle that functioned as an informal illegitimate governance structure outside the formal IAAF governance structure in dealing with anti-doping matters related to Russian track and field athletes, namely Lilya Shobukhova.36

The WADA Independent Commission also uncovered new revelations about IAAF extortion and cover-up within that inner circle involving Turkish athlete Asli Alptekin, the winner of the gold medal in the 1500 meters at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.37 Lamine Diack’s two sons, Papa Massata Diack and Khalil Diack, who were employed as IAAF consultants, spearheaded the attempted extortion and cover-up of Alptekin’s positive doping results.38 Specifically, the following was revealed related to Alptekin:

  • Alptekin had an abnormal ABP Alptekin prior to the 2012 Olympic Games but was permitted to compete and win the Olympic gold medal anyway.39
  • Alptekin was only notified after the Olympic Games in October 2012 by the Turkish Athletic Federation that she could be sanctioned by the IAAF for abnormal ABP results.40
  • At a meeting in Monaco, where the IAAF is headquartered, between Alptekin, her husband and Papa Massata Diack in November 2012 Diack initially asked for Euro 650,000 and then Euro 350,000 to cover-up her positive doing results. The Alptekins refused to pay those amounts.41
  • At a subsequent meeting in Istanbul, Diack suggested that Alptekin’s positive doping results could be covered up or resolved by a payment in the range of Euro 100,000 to 250,000. The Alptekins made a partial payment in cash of Euro 35,000 to Diack with the understanding that the anti-doping proceedings against Alptekin would be halted.42
  • That a year later there was a further attempt to extort money from the Alptekins by Khalil Diack. That Alptekin paid approximately Euro 20,000 to 25,000 for Khalil Diack and his wife to visit to Turkey and that Diack traveled to Turkey using an assumed name.43

As a result of these startling findings, the WADA Independent Commission concluded that Papa Massata Diack and Khalil Diack breached the IAAF disciplinary code in approaching the Turkish athlete Alptekin to extort money, while committing fraud by representing themselves as being able to cover up an anti-doping rules violation.44

On the revelations related to the extortion and cover-up surrounding the ARAF, the WADA Independent Commission concluded that:

far more IAAF staff knew about the problems than has currently been acknowledged, but that nothing was done because there was no appetite on the part of the IAAF to challenge Russia when the IAAF World Championships were being held in Moscow in 2013.45 The WADA Independent Commission reasoned that the IAAF wanted to ensure that the World Championships were successful even if only to validate its own choice of the host country.46

Thus, the WADA Independent Commission concluded that,

  1. Any reinstatement of the Russian national federation must be subject to ongoing verification that it is complying with the World Anti-Doping Code and IAAF regulations; and
  2. That the anti-doping function within the IAAF must be completely separated from the sport-political and commercial aspects of the IAAF activities to ensure that corruption does not occur in the future.47

The WADA Independent Commission Report Part 2 also addressed public allegations that the IAAF had covered up numerous abnormal ABP results.

These allegations stemmed from a report by Hajo Seppelt, a German journalist who obtained a database which purported to be an IAAF database showing the blood test results of thousands of athletes during the period 2001-2012.48 Seppelt shared the “database” with the British newspaper, The Sunday Times, who approached Michael Ashenden, a well-known Australian scientist to analyze the database and to provide a report on the contents.49 

A report was aired on German television in August 2015 containing many allegations regarding widespread doping in athletics based on Ashenden’s conclusions.50 The Sunday Times published several articles with similar allegations.51

WADA Commission Conclusions

On this issue, the WADA Independent Commission concluded,

  1. That the “database” seized was incomplete and not really a database at all. It was not evidence of a positive doping test in any particular case but rather a way to target athletes for EPO testing;
  2. Certain information that might have been considered relevant was not contained in the database; and
  3. There was no proof of a cover up by the IAAF of positive test results as alleged.52

The WADA Independent Commission Report Part 2 concluded that only the IAAF’s implementation of the measures it recommended could restore the confidence of track and field athletes and fans in the integrity of the sport of track and field.53 As Mr. Pound stated during his press conference to unveil the results of the WADA Independent Commission, “Of course there was cover-up and delay. Acknowledge this. If you can’t acknowledge it you are never going to get past it.54

WADA Recommendations

The WADA Independent Commission made a number of recommendations. Here a some of the key recommendations that the IAAF:

  • should consider the governance principles surrounding potential conflicts of interest between itself and its member federations.55
  • regardless of the outcomes of the criminal investigations, should pursue all individuals involved in the extortion of the athlete.
  • publicly recognize the assistance provided by the whistleblowers in establishing the facts of corruption in Russian athletics and offer any necessary support in their relocation and employment.56
  • offer encouragement and assistance to whistleblowers in matters of doping and other corruption.57
  • anti-doping activities within the IAAF be adequately financed and supported.58
  • adopt and implement policies that will place an onus on its member federations to demonstrate, subject to verification, that they comply with all applicable rules, including, in particular, anti-doping rules, failing which they will be unable to enter competitors, host competitions and hold any office or position within the IAAF.59
  • re-evaluate its governance principles and structures to put in place a governance structure that will prevent or identify any conflicts of interest or corruption in future.60
  • establish an independent compliance commission charged with investigating, reporting and recommending sanctions in the event of non- compliance by or within any national federation.61
  • establish rules to shift the onus for whereabouts requirements and effective out-of-competition testing with respect to countries having been designated as high risk, such that those countries must be able, as a condition of eligibility, to demonstrate to the comfortable satisfaction of the IAAF compliance commission that no impediments exist.62
  • report to WADA no less often than twice per year in respect of any difficulties encountered with respect to whereabouts and testing in any country in which it has recognized a national federation, with a view to possible joint declarations of Code non-compliance.63
  • report to WADA in respect of all independent expert determinations made in respect of ABP submissions regarding international and national athletes, including the names of the experts consulted for the purpose.
  • consider the possible benefits of increasing the number of urine samples taken at the time of obtaining blood samples.64
  • consider the legal and privacy implications of maintaining informal databases such as the Fischetto database that was subsequently obtained and used by third parties.65

 

IAAF Reforms

Since the IAAF Independent Commission decision and the two WADA reports the IAAF has announced and approved a number of reforms66 at the 203rd IAAF Council Meeting on the 11th March 2016, Chaired by IAAF President Sebastian Coe, IAAF to “restore trust in both the organization and the integrity of competition”.  These include:

  1. The introductions of safeguards and controls to ensure the organisation it is not exposed to unnecessary risk in the future.
  2. A comprehensive root and branch review of all financial controls and corporate governance.
  3. Establishing an ethical compliance group and recruiting an ethical compliance officer.
  4. The creation of an Integrity Unit with greater independence to the anti-doping process;
  5. Establishment of 10 Special Advisory Groups67
    [….
    1. Athletes Commission
    2. Audit Commission (incorporates former IAAF Finance and Budget Commission)
    3. Coaches Commission
    4. Competition Commission
    5. Development Commission
    6. International Relations Commission
    7. Legal Commission
    8. Medical and Anti-doping Commission
    9. Values Commission (Incorporates former School and Youth Commission)
    10. Youth Engagement Commission …]
  6. Implementing an action plan to monitor compliance to IAAF Rule 30.6 with respect to the federations of Ethiopia, Morocco, Belarus, Ukraine and Kenya.
  7. Rune Andersen, the independent chair of the Taskforce for the IAAF monitoring Russia's compliance to the verification criteria for the re-entry of Russia to international competition, gave his update to Council…the view of the Taskforce is that there is significant work still to be done to satisfy conditions and the reinstatement of the ARAF.68

Whilst some action has clearly been taking it is worth nothing there are still ongoing investigations; the outcome of which we wait with baited breath as we approach the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio.

 

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About the Author

Paul J. Greene

Paul J. Greene

pgreene@globalsportsadvocates.com | @greenesportslaw

Paul J. Greene, Esq. is a U.S. based sports lawyer who protects the rights of athletes in disputes, including those charged in anti-doping proceedings. Paul has been recognized by Chambers USA and Super Lawyers as one of America’s top sports lawyers.

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Sean Cottrell

Sean Cottrell

Sean is the founder and CEO of LawInSport. Founded in 2010, LawInSport has become the "go to sports law website" for sports lawyers and sports executives across the world.

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