Athletics: Doping e-mail probe: COE's aide steps aside

Sebastian Coe (left), head of the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) arrives with Nick Davies, deputy general secretary of the IAAF, for a meeting in central London.
Sebastian Coe (left), head of the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) arrives with Nick Davies, deputy general secretary of the IAAF, for a meeting in central London. PHOTO: AFP

IAAF director Davies offers full cooperation and says he has submitted relevant evidence

LONDON • Nick Davies, a leading official at the world athletics federation (IAAF), said on Tuesday he would step aside while an ethics committee investigated e-mails he had sent regarding Russian doping ahead of the 2013 world championships in Moscow.

On Monday, the French newspaper Le Monde published an e-mail sent by the Briton to Papa Massata Diack, a former IAAF marketing consultant and son of former IAAF president Lamine Diack, that discussed developing a media strategy to limit the impact of a series of positive tests by Russian athletes.

Davies served as the IAAF's director of communications at the time, but is now the director of IAAF president Sebastian Coe's office.

"What has become apparent today is that I have become the story," he said in a statement distributed by the IAAF.

He added that he was stepping aside pending a ruling on his conduct by the IAAF ethics board.

He said he had voluntarily offered full assistance to the board as well as French police and the World Anti-Doping Agency.

"I have referred my e-mails to Papa Diack in 2013, my statements and the circumstances of the e-mails to the IAAF ethics board," Davies added.

Both Diacks are under investigation by the IAAF and French police on suspicion of corruption relating to the concealment of positive dope tests. At the same time, Russian athletes are currently banned from the sport following revelations of widespread, state-sponsored doping.

The e-mail cited by Le Monde, which Davies was said to have described as "very secret", said: "I need to be able to sit down with the anti-doping department and understand exactly what Russian 'skeletons' we have still in the cupboard regarding doping.

"We can prepare a special dossier on IAAF testing which will show that one of the reasons why these Russian athletes come up positive is that they get tested a lot."

The e-mail also suggested that Coe, then an IAAF vice-president, might be able to use his political influence in Britain to minimise the damage of any doping revelations, and sought ways to fend off negative stories in the British media.

Davies said on Monday that the e-mail was merely "brainstorming for a media strategy" and that he had done nothing wrong.

Friends of Davies continue to insist that he is a man of integrity - and that last December he confronted Lamine Diack and told him to suspend a number of senior figures, including Papa, after allegations that they had extorted bribes to cover up the suspicious blood values from the Russian marathon runner Liliya Shobukhova were broadcast.

Davies' supporters claim the e-mail was leaked by Diack junior in an attempt to inflict maximum damage against Davies and, by extension, Coe himself.

Yet despite the change of regime at the IAAF, the communications department's playbook appeared intact. On Monday night, for instance, Davies' lawyers sent a letter to German documentary maker Hajo Seppelt warning him after he attacked Davies' e-mails on Twitter.

As they told him: "Should you publish any inaccurate or defamatory statements about the IAAF, Mr Davies and/or Lord Coe then we will not hesitate to take appropriate legal action".

Seppelt published the letter on Twitter, exposing Davies' overly heavy-handed approach.

Massata Diack on Tuesday denied any involvement in bribery or corruption and said his father was also innocent. The IAAF said on Monday that Coe would not comment on an e-mail he knew nothing about.

REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 24, 2015, with the headline 'Doping e-mail probe: COE's aide steps aside'. Print Edition | Subscribe