IAAF officials tried to extort from Turk too

LONDON • The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) has confirmed for the first time that attempted extortion by senior International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) officials extended beyond Russia and included a Turkish athlete, believed to be the London 2012 1,500m gold medallist Asli Cakir Alptekin.

Last week's 170-page report by the IAAF, which unveiled blackmail and cover-ups at the highest level of the sport, referenced a September 2014 meeting between the Wada chairman, Craig Reedie, and the then deputy Russian sports minister Yuri Nagornykh.

The minister said that Valentin Balakhnichev, president of the All Russia Athletics Federation (Araf) and one of four senior officials banned by the IAAF ethics commission, had told him that Araf had been blackmailed by the IAAF since 2011 and that "the system was in place not only in Russia but, potentially, in other countries such as Morocco and Turkey".

Balakhnichev denied the account but the ethics commission, chaired by Michael Beloff, said his denial was not credible.

Wada has now confirmed that it discovered a similar case of attempted extortion, in which money was demanded in return for the covering up of suspicious blood values, in relation to a Turkish athlete.

The athlete is believed to be Alptekin, who won gold at London 2012 but should have been banned according to her blood profile.

"Yes, we were able to use this information to discover a case of attempted extortion of a Turkish athlete for money in exchange for covering up a doping rule violation. This information was passed on by Wada to the Independent Commission for its investigation," said a Wada spokesman.

This week, former Wada president Dick Pound will present the second part of his investigation into systemic doping in Russia and the related corruption at the highest levels of the IAAF under the previous president Lamine Diack.

Pound referred to Alptekin in the first part of his report. The French prosecutor Elaine Houlette has also referred to the case, saying that Alptekin was approached a few months after the London Games and it was suggested she could pay to avoid punishment. "It was a sort of blackmail," Houlette said.

Last year, Alptekin was banned for eight years and stripped of her London 2012 gold. Immediately after the race, British runner Lisa Dobriskey sparked controversy by saying: "I don't believe I'm competing on a level playing field."

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 10, 2016, with the headline 'IAAF officials tried to extort from Turk too'. Print Edition | Subscribe