Athletics: Sebastian Coe in crisis over aide's e-mail leak

Nick Davies.
Nick Davies.

Right-hand man Davies knew about 2013 Russian doping cases and kept them hidden

LONDON • IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) president Sebastian Coe is facing a fresh crisis after an e-mail was leaked showing that his right-hand man knew about a number of Russian doping cases in 2013 - and discussed how best to keep them hidden just days before the World Championships in Moscow.

In the e-mail published by French newspaper Le Monde, Coe's close confidant Nick Davies, who was the chief IAAF spokesman at the time, also talks about how athletics' governing body might use Coe's political influence to prevent attacks planned by the British press towards Russia.

Davies, who was promoted to head Coe's office in August, also warns a senior colleague that their discussion must remain secret, adding: "I need to sit down to talk with the Anti-Doping Department and understand exactly who are the 'corpses' Russians that are still in the closet, in relation to doping."

While discussing a five-point media plan with Papa Massata Diack, an IAAF marketing executive and son of the former IAAF president Lamine Diack, Davies admits that the IAAF should have unveiled the "various athletes a long time ago" but says "now we need to be smart".

PLEADING NOT GUILTY

No plan was put in place following this e-mail and there is absolutely no possibility that a strategy or a media plan/PR may interfere with the anti-doping procedure.

NICK DAVIES , close confidant of Sebastian Coe (left)

"These athletes, of course, should not be part of any Russian team for these World Championships and Valentin (Balakhnichev, the IAAF treasurer and head of Russian Athletics) should be pressurised to make sure this is the case," he writes.

"If the guilty ones are not competing then we might as well wait until the event is over to announce them. Or we announce one or two but at the same time as athletes from other countries.

"Also 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-mails are bound to cause Coe serious embarrassment given that last month an Independent Commission report revealed that there was systemic state-sponsored doping in Russia.

The report, headed by Dick Pound, also found there was "the intentional and malicious destruction" of 1,417 samples by the Moscow laboratory, and warned of a "conspiracy to conduct and conceal corrupt behaviour by particular highly-placed members and officials of the IAAF and the Araf (the Russian Athletics Federation)".

Davies also suggested that the IAAF might take advantage of Coe's influence with the British media by using the Chime Sports Marketing company (CSM), where Coe served as a general manager.

"It is in his interest to ensure that the World Championships in Moscow are a success and that people do not think that the press in his country wants to destroy them," wrote Davies.

"We work hard to stop all attacks planned by the British press towards Russia in the coming weeks."

In a statement to Le Monde, Davies denied any wrongdoing, and said he was merely exchanging ideas about possible strategies related to "serious challenges" faced around the image of the competition.

"No plan was put in place following this e-mail and there is absolutely no possibility that a strategy or a media plan/PR may interfere with the anti-doping procedure," he added.

"I have not discussed these ideas with CSM and there was never any agreement between the IAAF and CSM to develop a public relations campaign. CSM has never worked for the IAAF in any capacity whatsoever since Sebastian Coe is a member."

Meanwhile Coe's spokeswoman Jackie Brock-Doyle told Le Monde he would not respond to e-mails to which he had no knowledge.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 23, 2015, with the headline 'COE in crisis over Aide's e-mail leak'. Print Edition | Subscribe