British athletes in doping spotlight

Former Russia chief alleges IAAF buried potential doping cases that included an Olympic champ

LONDON • A sensational new message has emerged from the disgraced former head of Russian athletics in which he alleges the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) covered up potential doping violations by British athletes.

In a documentary alleging a welter of new claims about corruption and "mafia-style practices" at the IAAF under its former president Lamine Diack, German investigative journalist Hajo Seppelt has uncovered evidence that senior figures at athletics' world governing body deliberately ignored suspicious blood tests for at least six top Russian athletes since 2011.

The programme makers are also publishing a message from Valentin Balakhnichev - the former head of the Russian federation banned for life by the IAAF ethics commission - dating from July 2014, in which he threatens unnamed IAAF officials with blowing the whistle on the conspiracy.

"As we understand, after a three-year conspiracy game, you decided to play 'fair' and in accordance with IAAF rules. It is your choice but we are confident this is not a wise step," warned Balakhnichev.

In a coded threat to the IAAF officials concerned, he added: "We will not remain silent. It was not us who started this game. It was the IAAF project and the IAAF shall be the key victim of future scandal."

So it would prove, with the World Anti-Doping Agency's independent commission report of December last year outlining the scale of the corruption and cover-up organised by a so-called alternative governance system that included Diack's son, Papa Massata.

The IAAF ethics commission later banned Balakhnichev, the Russian distance coach Alexei Melnikov and Papa Massata Diack from athletics for life. Last week, the Court of Arbitration for Sport heard appeals from all three men.

In the message published by French newspaper Le Monde and the German broadcaster ARD, which The Guardian has independently established as genuine, the Russian claims to have been shown a list by "IAAF ambassadors" that included non-Russian athletes.

"Surprisingly we found there some prominent British athletes including an Olympic champion and an icon of the GB sports. Our question is why did the IAAF not require GB Athletics to sanction these athletes," it said.

"Be sure that this question will be asked in our explanations and the names of the athletes who were under Athlete Biological Passport investigation will also be disclosed. We demand fair and transparent public procedure in regard of all athletes with the alleged ABP violations."

There is no suggestion that the inclusion of British athletes on the list is an indication of wrongdoing or that they are responsible for their names being on it.

In response, the UK's athletics governing body said: "British Athletics has no knowledge of any of the allegations made by Valentin Balakhnichev in his e-mail of July 2014 published today.

"We will of course co-operate fully with any inquiry we might receive from the anti-doping authorities on the matter."

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 27, 2016, with the headline 'British athletes in doping spotlight'. Print Edition | Subscribe