Athletics: Sebastian Coe denies having misled British government

International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) President Sebastian Coe addresses a press conference following a two-day IAAF council meeting in Monaco.
International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) President Sebastian Coe addresses a press conference following a two-day IAAF council meeting in Monaco.PHOTO: AFP

E-mails indicate he was disingenuous about knowledge of corruption in Russian athletics

LONDON • Allegations that world athletics chief Sebastian Coe misled British lawmakers intensified yesterday after new e-mails appeared to show he was "made aware" of corruption claims concerning the Russian doping scandal four months before they became public.

Coe, the president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), told a House of Commons committee in December 2015 that he was "not aware" of specific allegations of corruption in Russian athletics until a German documentary in December 2014.

However, an e-mail published yesterday by the Culture, Media and Sport committee from Coe, a two-time Olympic champion, to the IAAF's ethics commission in August 2014 stated: "I have now been made aware of the allegations."

Coe, a member of Britain's House of Lords, told Parliament in 2015: "I was certainly not aware of the specific allegations that had been made around the corruption of anti-doping processes in Russia."

MPs had wanted Coe to re-appear before the committee following evidence from former athlete David Bedford that appeared to contradict that of the IAAF president.

Coe has yet to return to the committee but has agreed to two requests to make public correspondence he had with Michael Beloff, the chairman of the IAAF ethics commission.

"Whatever excuse he gives, it is clear that Lord Coe decided not to share with the committee information that was relevant to our inquiry on doping in sport," House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport committee chairman Damian Collins told the BBC yesterday.

"The committee asked him about his knowledge of doping in Russian athletics and of corruption within the sport. In his answers, he gave the impression that he was unaware of specific allegations.

"Thanks to evidence that was presented by the BBC Panorama programme last year, and by David Bedford to the committee this January, we can see that he was aware, at least in general terms, of the allegations that had been brought forward by the Russian athlete Liliya Shobukhova."

Bedford told the committee he had sent Coe an e-mail in August 2014 which contained an explosive allegation.

Andrey Baranov, the agent of Shobukhova, claimed she had been blackmailed by Russian and IAAF officials including Papa Massata Diack, the son of then-IAAF president Lamine Diack, to the tune of €450,000 (S$684,227) over a failed dope test.

Coe said he never opened the e-mail and forwarded it to the IAAF ethics commission and that he first knew of the allegations through the German documentary.

Yesterday, he again denied that he misled a British Parliamentary committee. He said he did not know the specifics of Bedford's claim and explained why in a four- page e-mail to Collins this week which was made public on the UK Parliament's official website.

"I wish to confirm that to the best of my recollection I was not aware prior to December 2014 of the allegations that Papa Massata Diack/ others associated with the IAAF were involved in covering up Russian doping," Coe wrote.

"This is even though I accept that, in August 2014, David Bedford e-mailed me documents containing allegations along those lines," he added. "I trust this clarifies the matter to the satisfaction of the committee and as such there are no grounds for suggesting I misled the committee in any way."

Russia remains suspended by the IAAF after it was kicked out in November 2015 over allegations of "state-sponsored doping" in a move that saw athletes banned from international competitions.

On Monday, the head of European athletics Svein Arne Hansen said blood and urine samples from athletes who set European records will be stored for a minimum of 10 years to stamp out drug cheats.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 01, 2017, with the headline 'Coe denies having misled British govt'. Print Edition | Subscribe