Athletics: Reports say official took millions in doping bribes

BERLIN (AFP) - The wanted son of ousted international athletics president Lamine Diack took millions of euros from Russian competitors in return for "total protection" from failed doping tests, a new investigation said on Friday (Nov 25).

Germany's ARD television and France's Le Monde newspaper said six athletes each paid between €300,000 and €700,000 (S$450,000-S$1 million) to top officials including Papa Massata Diack who is wanted by French authorities but in hiding in his native Senegal.

His father, Lamine Diack, who was charged after standing down as International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) in August 2015, is under house arrest in France.

"The organised cover-up of suspected doping in the world of track and field has as such assumed a previously unimagined scale," said ARD.

"And once again, it is primarily athletes from one nation under scrutiny: Russia."

The two media organisations said their information were based on files held by Paris financial crime prosecutors who are investigating corruption allegations against the Diacks.

At least six Russian athletes had paid to have their suspicious doping test results covered up, including long-distance runner Liliya Shobukhova, walkers Valeriy Borchin, Olga Kaniskina and Vladimir Kanaikin and Sergey Kirdyapkin as well as steeplechase runner Yuliya Zaripova, the report said.

The media organisations also quoted letters sent by the then president of Russia's athletics federation, Valentin Balakhnichev, who had threatened to go public with the doping deal if the IAAF fails to offer the immunity it had promised.

"Let us remind you that the background of these six cases from the very beginning was very far from any legal and ethical frames," according to the letter addressed to IAAF officials by Balakhnichev dated July 30, 2014.

"You decided to use multiple ABP (athlete biological passport) violations by the Russian athletes as an excellent way for your own prosperity. In 2011, when we faced 19 shocking ABP cases including Olympic and world champions, you offered us a deal.

"Naming it as a deal, we are too much diplomatic. It was cynical and cruel blackmail," he added.

Balakhnichev stepped down from his post as Russian athletics chief a week after ARD aired its first documentary in December 2014 alleging systematic doping in Russian athletics.

Investigations into the allegations have since uncovered rampant Russian state-run doping at the Sochi Olympics and other events.

An IAAF spokesman declined to comment on details under investigation by French authorities, but said: "It is clear we all need to get to the bottom of what has happened which is what the French criminal investigation is doing and we continue to assist them as required.

"We are taking bold steps to safeguard the sport in the future," added the spokesman, who highlighted the creation of an integrity unit and a disciplinary tribunal.