Payment by Bubka under probe

International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Sergey Bubka with Princess Charlene of Monaco at the IAAF Diamond League Herculis meeting at  Louis II Stadium on July 21, 2017.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Sergey Bubka with Princess Charlene of Monaco at the IAAF Diamond League Herculis meeting at Louis II Stadium on July 21, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

Ex-pole vaulter's spokesman says US$45k to Russian official Balakhnichev for consultancy

LONDON • A payment made by Sergey Bubka, the senior vice-president of athletics' world governing body, to a now-disgraced senior figure is set to be investigated by the independent Athletics Integrity Unit, according to the Guardian.

Bubka, who is also an executive board member of the International Olympic Committee and an Olympic gold medallist, was reported by the French newspaper Le Monde to have paid US$45,000 (S$60,800) into the Monaco account of the Nevis-registered firm of Valentin Balakhnichev, the former IAAF treasurer and head of Russian athletics, on June 18, 2009.

A day earlier, Balakhnichev's account, New Mills Investment, transferred almost precisely the same amount (US$45,033.12) to Pamodzi Sports, the consultancy arm of Papa Massata Diack, the former IAAF marketing executive.

The documents, which have been seen by The Guardian, show that the payments were made on two days in 2009.

In a statement, Brett Clothier, head of the Athletics Integrity Unit, said that it would be looking into the payment.

"The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) is aware of the article published in Le Monde in which allegations are made concerning International Association of Athletics Federations senior vice-president Sergey Bubka," he said. "The unit will seek further information in relation to this matter in accordance with its functions under the rules."

The unit was set up in April to beef up athletics' anti-doping powers and to "address integrity breaches in other areas of concern such as bribery and corruption, betting… in short combating any and all threats to the integrity of the sport".

Bubka, who broke the world record 35 times in a glittering pole vault career before becoming a sports administrator, has strenuously denied any wrongdoing.

A statement from the Ukrainian's lawyers, Simons Muirhead & Burton, said: "My client has no knowledge of or involvement in any alleged business dealings between Mr Balakhnichev and other parties, including Mr Diack. Similarly my client has no financial relations with Mr Diack."

On being presented with evidence of the payment, a spokesman for Bubka said: "It was for consultancy services performed by Mr Balaknichev solely in connection with and to expand the reach of the annual Pole Vault Stars tournament which Mr Bubka used to organise each year in the Ukraine until 2014."

Pole Vault Stars was an annual competition in Donetsk, Ukraine, that began in 1990 and continued until 2014 when it was put on hold due to the annexation of Crimea.

Balakhnichev also said the money was linked to a plan to expand Pole Vault Stars. "As I remember, we were planning to create a new event in Russia, especially in Moscow and some cities in the world, with his Pole Vaulting Stars as a series competition with finish in Donetsk," he said.

Ultimately, no plan to expand the event was ever put into the public domain.

Balakhnichev had a life ban for corruption upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport last month. Diack, the son of former IAAF president Lamine Diack, is on the run from Interpol after being linked to corruption and vote-buying during Rio de Janeiro's bid for the 2016 Olympics.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 22, 2017, with the headline 'Payment by Bubka under probe'. Print Edition | Subscribe