Wednesday 26 July 2017

Off The Ball: Treatment of Hajo Seppelt says it all about IAAF

IAAF president Seb Coe. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.
IAAF president Seb Coe. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.

Joe Molloy

Hajo Seppelt is a name you've seen before, particularly over the past year. You may have heard him on our show last night. He is the ARD television journalist who, with the help of two whistle-blowers, exposed the full extent of state-sponsored doping in Russian athletics. That was back in December 2014, when his ARD documentary was first broadcast.

Needless to say, Seppelt's film prompted an immediate independent investigation which was led by Dick Pound, the former WADA president. Of the Russian situation, Pound said in November 2015: "It's worse than we thought."

He singled out Seppelt for "this very fine piece of investigative journalism". All of Seppelt's allegations stood up.

We should note here that Seppelt has never released the data of named individuals. For the good of the sport, he wanted to reveal the overall picture in athletics, not to kick off a short-term frenzy around high-profile downfalls. All in all, this is a responsible journalist, doing exceptional work. Now for the grim part.

Threats

This week David Walsh reported that Seppelt has received three, yes three, legal threats from the IAAF in the past year. Two arrived before the Seb Coe presidency began, the third after. They essentially tell Seppelt if he puts a foot out of line, they'll sue him in double quick time.

Meanwhile, the two Russian whistle-blowers, Yuliya and Vitaly Stepanov, are currently in exile and have never been offered any kind of role or significant assistance by the IAAF.

Seppelt told us he has lost any hope of Seb Coe overseeing any kind of culture change in athletics.

Indeed, whilst making his December 2014 documentary, Seppelt tried for a solid year to secure an interview with Coe, to no avail. Basic common instinct tells us that the IAAF should be working with Seppelt and the Stepanovs. That they have been threatened and ignored speaks volumes. JM

Irish Independent

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