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Athletics doping scandal 2015

Life ban handed down to disgraced Diack in athletics doping blackmail scandal

Son of former IAAF president Lamine Diack and two Russian officials kicked out of track and field; former anti-doping director Gabriel Dolle suspended for five years

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 January, 2016, 1:02am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 January, 2016, 9:47am

The son of former IAAF president Lamine Diack and two Russian officials have been banned from track and field for life after an investigation into blackmail, bribery, extortion and doping cover-ups.

A fourth official, former IAAF anti-doping director Gabriel Dolle, received a five-year ban from the ethics commission of the International Association of Athletics Federations.

The life bans could not send a stronger message that those who attempt to corrupt or subvert the sport of athletics will be brought to justice
IAAF president Sebastian Coe

Banned for life were Papa Massata Diack, who worked as an IAAF marketing consultant; former Russian athletics federation head Valentin Balakhnichev, who was also honorary treasurer of the IAAF; and Alexei Melnikov, former coach of Russia’s race-walking and long-distance running programmes.

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The sanctions centred on the case of Russian marathoner Liliya Shobukhova, who was allegedly extorted out of hundreds of thousands of dollars to avoid a doping ban before the 2012 London Olympics.

In addition, Papa Massata Diack and Balakhnichev were fined US$25,000 each, and Melnikov was fined US$15,000.

Dolle was banned for five years because “his sins were those of omission, not commission”, the IAAF panel said.

The verdicts can be appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The investigation followed a report by German broadcaster ARD in December 2014 alleging Shobukhova – a former winner of the Boston and Chicago Marathons – paid 450,000 (HK$3.78 million) to Russian officials who threatened her with a doping ban before the London Games.

When Shobukhova was initially banned for two years in 2014, her husband reportedly received a 300,000 refund payment linked to Balakhnichev. Then treasurer at the IAAF, he stepped down within days of the programme being broadcast.

On Thursday, Balakhnichev called his ban an “unbalanced decision” and claimed it was timed deliberately on Orthodox Christmas.

“It was somewhat politicised, as seen by its being announced on the biggest religious holiday of the Russian Federation, which is Christmas,” he said.

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko told the R-Sport news agency that the verdict was “expected” and “there’s no sense in appealing it”.

Thursday’s verdicts are separate from the criminal investigation in France into former IAAF officials. Lamine Diack was taken into custody by French authorities in November on corruption and money-laundering charges, suspected of taking more than 1 million to blackmail athletes and cover up positive tests.

Dolle and Habib Cisse, Diack’s legal adviser at the IAAF, were also detained and charged with corruption in France.

The IAAF said it was “angered” that the officials sanctioned by the ethics panel “conspired to extort what were in substance bribes from the athlete by acts of blackmail”.

“The IAAF has already introduced corrective measures to make sure this sort of interference can’t happen again,” it said, adding that the four banned officials are “no longer associated with the IAAF in any capacity”.

IAAF president Sebastian Coe said: “The life bans could not send a stronger message that those who attempt to corrupt or subvert the sport of athletics will be brought to justice.”