Wada looks at relationship between Diack and Putin in 2013

Nine Russian athletes withdrew from World Championships in Moscow

Former IAAF president Lamine Diack. Photograph:   Martin Rickett/PA

Former IAAF president Lamine Diack. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA


We may never know what, if any, role Russian president Vladimir Putin may have played in it but the withdrawal of some of the country’s most doped-up athletes from the 2013 World Championships in Moscow almost certainly helped pave the way for Rob Heffernan’s gold in the 50km walk.

It is just one of the many fresh implications from part two of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (Wada) Independent Commission report into bribery and corruption within the IAAF.

The report details how then IAAF president Lamine Diack told a lawyer he would need to cut a deal with president Putin to ensure nine Russian athletes already accused of doping would not compete at those 2013 World Championships. Among them was Sergey Kirdyapkin, the then reigning World and Olympic champion, who was entered the 50km walk in Moscow, only to inexplicably withdraw on the morning of the race (along with 2011 World Champion Sergey Bakulin).

That meant the expectedly strong Russian challenge was instead fronted by the 21-year-old Mikhail Ryzhov, who ended up second behind Heffernan’s brilliant walk for gold. Last year, however, Kirdyapkin was banned for doping offences under the IAAF’s Athlete Biological Passport (ABP). The Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas) will next month decide whether or not Kirdyapkin can keep his Olympic gold from London 2012 (with Heffernan thus promoted to bronze), although Kirdyapkin himself has since admitted he would willingly surrender his medals for the chance to compete “clean” again.

Part one of the report outlined the extent of doping within Russian athletics, while part two reveals just how complicit the IAAF were in it all. This includes a reference to the deal-making friendship forged between Putin and Diack, and also meetings between Diack and IAAF lawyer Huw Roberts, who delivered details of the nine Russian doping cases directly to Diack and asked how he planned to resolve them. With no apparent resolution, Diack then explained to Roberts “he was in a difficult position that could only be resolved by president Putin of Russia with whom he had struck up a friendship.”

Second Captains

None of the nine athletes subsequently competed in Moscow, although the report stops short of revealing exactly why not. It does however report details of the sudden increase from $6 million to $25 million for the rights to televise those 2013 World Championships, provided by a Russian bank.

Part of the problem with all this is that while Russia was already adept at avoiding testing for EPO, it had yet to find a way around the IAAF’s ABP method of drug detection. Indeed the Independent Commission report suggests that one of the main reasons Russian athletes were open to bribery and extortion was because the IAAF had become so good at catching them. Not that proper governance continued after that.

Indeed commission member Richard McClaren outlined at the press conference in Munich that “he (Diack) inserted his personal legal advisor Habib Cisse into the IAAF medical and anti-doping department in November of 2011 with the London 2012 and the Moscow 2013 World Championships coming up. He did so to enable Cisse to manage and follow up Russian athlete biological passport (ABP) cases.

“The Russian coaches around this time did not have a good understanding of the ABP process. They had mastered the evasion, manipulation and sometimes destruction of urine samples of Russian athletes so as to not produce positive results, but they had not yet learned how to do the same for the ABP.

“The deliberate insertion by the president of Cisse and his actions were intended to achieve the same results of manipulation and delay with the ABP cases involving the Russians the same result as had been achieved with the urine samples.”

Still, the Commission report backed the IAAF for its handling of the list of suspicious blood tests published last summer by The Sunday Times and German TV ARD investigation: essentially, despite the widespread evidence of manipulation and cover-up, the IAAF was still considered Wada compliant.

While commission chairman Dick Pound thanked the experts for working diligently in the studying of these blood samples, the key finding, he said, is that the data used by the ARD and Sunday Times, “could not” have been used to make prosecutions for doping prior to 2009.

“The data obtained was incomplete,” confirmed Pound. “It did not meet the standards. A full analysis showed the IAAF did follow accepted practices throughout the period under review. There were, for sure, some difficult periods, but Wada is satisfied and no longer has a problem with the IAAF. Follow-up activities in the face of suspicious values have generally been thorough and reasonable in the circumstances.”

Now, if only that could be said in and around 2013.

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