DRUGS

Report: Russian Bribery Scheme Covered Up Drug Tests

A bombshell investigation has uncovered evidence of Russian athletes paying to have their drug tests cleaned up

DRUGS
AFP/Getty Images
Nov 28, 2016 at 3:55 PM ET

According to investigative report by Le Monde and the German broadcaster ARD, the International Association of Athletics Federations solicited bribes in exchange for covering up suspicious blood tests which could have kept Russian athletes from competing in the 2012 London Olympics and other international sporting events.

A raft of emails published on Friday show that from 2011 through 2013 payments were allegedly solicited from six athletes, Valeriy Borchin, Olga Kaniskina, Vladimir Kanaikin, Sergey Kirdyapkin Yuliya Zaripova, and Liliya Shobukhova, ranging from €300,000 to €700,000. A total of 23 athletes were also named in the emails, though Le Monde and ARD did not disclose their identities.

When the IAAF notified Valentin Balakhnichev—the now-barred for life IAAF treasurer and former head of the All-Russia Athletic Federation who reportedly participated in extorting €450,000 euros from Shobukhova—that they would begin enforcing its own rules, Balakhnichev threatened to blow up the entire operation.

On July 30, 2014, an email from an account belonging to Balakhnichev reminds the IAAF that they initiated what he calls the “TOTAL PROTECTION PROJECT,” and “cruel and cynical blackmail,” stating that unless the IAAF maintained the status quo, incriminating evidence of both the failed tests and the payments would be sent to the International Olympic Committee and the World Anti-Doping Agency.

“We will not remain silent. It was not us who started this game. It was the IAAF project and the IAAF shall be the key victim of future scandal. We have enough evidence to prove criminal activities of the IAAF people,” the email states. “We think the only way to avoid an enormous scandal about the covering up of numerous anti-doping violations, implicating numerous IAAF officials, is to continue to keep the situation ‘under the table,’ as has been the case all these years.”

Balakhnichev has since issued a statement claiming that the emails had been “forged” as part of an elaborate conspiracy to poison his lawsuit challenging the IAAF’s lifetime ban. (The Court of Arbitration for Sport has yet to issue a ruling.)

The emails were discovered by French investigators in the possession of Habib Cissé, an attorney and advisor to Lamine Diack, the former IAAF president charged with money laundering and corruption. Diack’s son, Papa Massata Diack, also barred for life by the IAAF and wanted by Interpol, is knee-deep in this too. Via ARD:

[Papa Massata] Diack wrote to Cissé: ”Make sure you pay back the 50,000 euros from the Shobukhova case by Monday.” The attorney asked for 15 days. ”I can’t keep the president [Lamine Diack] waiting,” answered Diack. ”Five is OK.”

A 2016 WADA investigation found that Diack, his sons, and his cronies had created an extra-legal, mafia-like structure to enable the state-sponsored Russian doping empire, securing millions of dollars for their troubles.

That said, WADA’s not entirely in the clear.

ARD’s research team confronted WADA president Craig Reedie with the incriminating documents in mid-November. He claimed never to have heard of the alleged extortion payments. In fact, WADA had itself written to the IAAF ethics commission in the fall of 2014, informing the latter about both the suspicious blood test results of the Russian athletes and its suspicions concerning blackmail. The agency itself, however, did not take any direct action to investigate these alarming developments.

A documentary short detailing Le Monde and ARD’s investigation aired Sunday night. It can be seen in its entirety here.