Track and field’s governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), was aware of the extent of Russia’s doping crisis and actively worked to cover it up, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said in a report released on Thursday.
The report is a follow-up to one from November that detailed the state-sponsored doping program in Russia. The first report was the culmination of a nearly year-long investigation into Russia’s track-and-field industry that began after a German documentary, “Top Secret Doping: How Russia makes its winners” was released in December 2014. It provided an in-depth look at the widespread use of performance enhancing drugs and blood doping by Russian track and field athletes and the coaches, doctors, and state officials that encouraged it. After that report, the IAAF suspending the Russian track and field federation indefinitely — including, as of now, the Rio Olympics.
But WADA’s latest report, which provides an unsettling look at the corruption of the IAAF under the 16-year reign of former president Lamine Dick, makes it clear that IAAF knew about this doping scandal well before November.
“There was an evident lack of political appetite within the IAAF to confront Russia with the full extent of its known and suspected doping activities,” Dick Pound, the former president of WADA and the investigation’s independent commission president, wrote.
Earlier this week, the Associated Press released internal IAFF documents that showed that as far back as 2009 — six years before any action was taken — IAFF officials were worried that the doping in Russian athletics was so severe that athletes were going to die:
“This matter of the Russian athletes’ blood levels is now so serious and is not getting any better (in fact possibly getting worse) that immediate and drastic action is needed,” Pierre Weiss, then the IAAF general secretary, wrote in an Oct. 14, 2009, hand-delivered letter to Valentin Balakhnichev, the Russian athletics president banned last week for life from the sport.
“Not only are these athletes cheating their fellow competitors but at these levels are putting their health and even their own lives in very serious danger,” Weiss wrote, telling Balakhnichev that blood results from Russian athletes “recorded some of the highest values ever seen since the IAAF started testing.”
WADA’s report digs deeply into the inner-workings of the IAAF, which was allegedly rampant with nepotism, bribery, and dishonesty.
“[Dick] was responsible for organizing and enabling the conspiracy and corruption that took place in the IAAF. He sanctioned and appears to have had personal knowledge of the fraud and the extortion of athletes carried out by the actions of the informal illegitimate governance structure he put in place,” Pound said.
In a press conference after releasing the scathing report, Pound said that Sebastian Coe, who was recently elected president of the IAAF, was still the best guy to lead IAFF — “fingers crossed.”
Dick Pound tells me "I cannot think of anyone better than Lord Coe to remain at IAAF head and we all have our fingers crossed"
— Paul Kelso (@pkelso) January 14, 2016
This was a bit of a mixed message, since Pound’s report explicitly says that the IAAF council — which Coe served on during the scandal — “could not have been unaware of the extent of doping in athletics.” The report also said that Nick Davies, who used to work closely with Coe as the IAAF general secretary up until leaving his post last month, was “well aware of Russian ‘skeletons’ in the cupboard.”
As recently as Wednesday, Coe denied that IAAF had any part in covering up Russian doping. However, he changed his tune after WADA’s report was released and now says that while there was a cover-up, he was not aware of it. He called it “abhorrent” and a “horror show.”
Meanwhile, WADA is investigating both the Russian doping scandal and IAAF corruption further, believing it may have only found the “tip of the iceberg” of athlete extortion.