Athletics: Scandal-hit IAAF cancels awards gala, opens probe into Diack's son

Lamine Diack (above) has been charged with corruption over suspicions he took bribes to cover up doping cases.
Lamine Diack (above) has been charged with corruption over suspicions he took bribes to cover up doping cases.REUTERS

PARIS (AFP) - World athletics' governing body, the IAAF, on Friday cancelled its annual awards gala and opened disciplinary proceedings against the son of former president Lamine Diack and three others including the world body's former treasurer and ex-doping chief.

The news comes as the latest hammerblow to the scandal-hit federation, just two days after Lamine Diack was charged by French police with corruption over suspicions he took bribes to cover up doping cases.

"Given the cloud that hangs over our association this is clearly not the time for the global athletics family to be gathering in celebration of our sport," IAAF president Sebastian Coe said in a bluntly-worded statement that also promised tougher financial controls.

Coe took over as head of the International Association of Athletics Federations from Diack in August, vowing to clean up the tainted sport.

Diack's son, Papa Massata Diack, a former consultant to the IAAF, will now face charges for various alleged breaches of the IAAF Code of Ethics, the governing body said.

He had been forced to resign last December over accusations that he organised doping cover-ups for Russian athletes.

He will be joined by three others at a private hearing before a Panel of the Ethics Commission in London on Dec 16-18.

They are Valentin Balakhnichev, former president of the All-Russia Athletic Federation (ARAF), Alexei Melnikov, former chief coach of Russia's long distance walkers and runners, and Gabriel Dolle, former director of the IAAF's anti-doping department.

Balakhnishev had stood down as IAAF treasurer at the same time as Papa Massata Diack's resignation, while Dolle was also charged with corruption by French police on Wednesday.

IAAF president Coe, a two-time Olympic 1500m gold medallist for Britain, did not want the annual awards gala going ahead with Lamine Diack under investigation.

The prestigious, black-tie event is run by the IAAF's own charitable foundation of which Lamine Diack is still listed as president and Prince Albert II of Monaco honorary president.

Jamaican sprint superstar Usain Bolt, British middle-distance great Mo Farah and up-and-coming Dutch star Dafne Schippers are in the running for the awards.

"We will rightly still honour the outstanding achievements of the sport's athletes," Coe insisted.

"Therefore the Athlete of the Year and other annual honours will still be awarded and will be promoted and announced on the internet and social media. The IAAF will seek a suitable occasion in the future for the presentation of these awards to be made to the winners."

Coe also vowed a review of internal corporate governance, saying an international firm of independent accountants had been "engaged to undertake a thorough review of operational and financial controls with a view to identifying any weaknesses and to make recommendations for improvements to ensure that the IAAF operates an internal control environment that is best in class".

"The proposals will deliver the IAAF a template for best practise, as a member federation and athlete-focused organisation with the safeguards of robust constitution and corporate governances," Coe said.

Friday's developments came as an independent commission of world anti-doping body WADA prepared to publish its report on Monday into allegations of widespread doping in athletics.