MUNICH — Track and field’s governing body was corrupted from the inside by a “powerful rogue group” led by its president, and they conspired to extort athletes and allow doping Russians to continue competing, a World Anti-Doping Agency probe reported Thursday.
Other IAAF leaders were at fault, too, the WADA panel’s damning report said. They must have known of the nepotism that allowed Lamine Diack to turn the International Association of Athletics Federations into a personal fiefdom during his 16-year reign as president, it said.
“It is increasingly clear that far more IAAF staff knew about the problems than has currently been acknowledged,” said the report, written by former WADA president Dick Pound and presented at a news conference in Munich.
A key question raised by the report is whether alleged corruption under Diack went beyond extorting doped athletes and infected other areas of IAAF business. WADA’s investigators called for a detailed follow-up probe of all world championships awarded by the ruling body for 2009-19, due to evidence they found of possible wrongdoing. That included an indication that Diack, a former IOC member, was prepared to sell his vote in the 2020 Olympic hosting contest won by Tokyo in exchange for sponsorship of IAAF events.
The report made further uncomfortable reading for Sebastian Coe, the British middle-distance running great who took over from Diack in August. Coe was in the audience as Pound sifted through the grim findings and asserted that the IAAF remains an organization in denial.
“The corruption was embedded in the organization. It cannot be ignored or dismissed as attributable to the odd renegade acting on its own,” the report said.
Coe is not accused of corrupt wrongdoing. But, as an IAAF vice president under Diack, he was part of its Council, its oversight body, that took a hammering from the investigators’ report. The Council “could not have been unaware of the extent of doping” and the breaking of anti-doping rules and “could not have been unaware of the level of nepotism” under Diack, it said.
“It is not credible that elected officials were unaware of the situation affecting … athletics in Russia. If, therefore, the circle of knowledge was so extensive why was nothing done? Quite obviously there was no appetite on the part of the IAAF to challenge Russia.”
With a “close inner circle” including two of his sons, Papa Massata and Khalil, and his personal legal counsel, Habib Cisse, Diack led an “informal illegitimate” government that took over the handling of Russian doping cases, opening the door for athletes to then be blackmailed, the report said.
Diack “was responsible for organizing and enabling the conspiracy and corruption that took place,” the report said. “He sanctioned and appears to have had personal knowledge of the fraud and the extortion of athletes.”
Installing Diack’s sons as IAAF consultants “helped to conceal their clandestine corruption,” it added.
Diack also “inserted” his lawyer, Cisse, “into the day-to-day operations” of the anti-doping department’s work on Russia. That gave the lawyer access to sensitive information about which Russian athletes were suspected of doping, based on their blood testing results.
That information became “the fundamental building block for the corruption and conspiracy that subsequently consumed the IAAF,” the report said.
Working with then-IAAF anti-doping director Gabriel Dolle, they deliberately stalled cases of suspected Russian dopers, and “their actions allowed dirty Russian athletes to compete and alter the results on the playing field. This conduct has the same effect as a cover-up,” the report charged.
Cisse, the lawyer, called the investigation “unfair.” Speaking to The Associated Press, he said the commission never questioned him or allowed him to contest any of its findings before publication.
“There’s no presumption of innocence,” he said. “It’s violent accusations without any care.”
Lamine Diack was taken into custody by French authorities in November on corruption and money-laundering charges. He is suspected of taking more than 1 million euros ($1.1 million) to blackmail athletes and cover up positive tests.
French authorities last month also issued an arrest warrant for Papa Massata Diack that was relayed by Interpol and posted Thursday as a wanted notice on the police organization’s web site. That could see him arrested if he leaves his home country of Senegal.
Cisse and Dolle also are under investigation in France for suspected corruption.
A contrite Coe later thanked Pound for the hard-hitting findings.
“The whole sorry saga is about cover-up,” Coe said. The WADA probe’s findings, he added, will help the IAAF with the “very complex, deeply painful process” of recovering.
But Pound backed Coe to stay at the helm of the IAAF, saying he was the best man to lead the organization out of the crisis and restore its credibility.
“As far as the ability of Lord Coe to remain as head of the IAAF, I think it’s a fabulous opportunity for the IAAF to seize this opportunity and under strong leadership to move forward,” Pound said. “There’s enormous amount of reputational recovery that has to occur here and I can’t … think of anyone better than Lord Coe to lead that.”
The WADA probe was limited in its scope, focusing essentially on Russian doping and cover-up allegations first aired by German TV in 2014.
But panel member Richard McLaren said police should now also look into how recent past and future track and field world championships were awarded under the Diack regime.
“We think it important that there be a forensic audit,” he told the AP. “It’s information that we have. We don’t have hard evidence, but it’s enough information that we think that it bears a serious investigation.”
“You are going to have to through financial records, documents, computer records, cell phones,” McLaren said.
The report also details a relationship between Diack and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
With cases against nine Russian athletes unresolved and the 2013 world championships looming, the report says Diack explained to an IAAF lawyer that he was in a “difficult position that could only be resolved by President Putin of Russia with whom he had struck up a friendship.”
Pound said the IAAF should not be disbanded. He said he doesn’t believe the federation’s problems are as grave as those that have brought down the leadership of soccer governing body FIFA.
When Coe took over the presidency in August, he was lavish in his praise of Diack. The allegations that have since emerged became an increasing source of embarrassment to Coe.
But Pound said he believes Coe had “not the faintest idea of the extent” of Diack’s alleged corruption when he took power.
Pound’s first report, issued in November, detailed a state-sponsored doping program in Russia involving corruption and cover-ups. That led the IAAF to suspend Russia’s track and field federation, leaving its athletes in danger of missing this year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
The investigators suspect athletes from other countries may also have been blackmailed and they may only have so far examined “the tip of the iceberg” of efforts to blackmail athletes, McLaren said.
The report came two days after the AP released details from six years of IAAF internal emails, reports and notes showing a high level of communication between the athletics federation and Russian officials about suspicious test results from the nation’s athletes, including plans to cover up some doping evidence.
Stephen Wilson in London contributed to this story.