Monday 26 September 2016

Sebastian Coe to face questions over Panorama revelations ahead of decision on Russia's Rio participation

Published 17/06/2016 | 11:33

IAAF president Sebastian Coe Photo: AFP/Getty Images
IAAF president Sebastian Coe Photo: AFP/Getty Images

The International Association of Athletics Federations will today announce whether or not Russia will be allowed to compete at the Olympics, but the governing body's president, Sebastian Coe, could have other questions to answer.

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The IAAF on Thursday night said a BBC Panorama programme which claimed Coe might have won the presidential election with help from one of the men at the heart of the sport's doping scandal was based on "flawed assumptions".

The Panorama programme said it has seen text messages that suggest Papa Massata Diack helped secure votes for Coe in the IAAF election in August 2015.

Diack is the son of former IAAF president Lamine Diack. Both men have been banned for life from the sport and are currently under investigation by French prosecutors on corruption charges.

The Panorama programme, 'Sebastian Coe and The Corruption Scandal', also claims Coe may have misled parliament in November 2015 over what he knew, and when, about the extent of Russia's doping problems which will be addressed in Vienna today.

Russia have been suspended from international competition since November after an investigation commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency uncovered systematic cheating and the taskforce set up by the IAAF to monitor the country's anti-doping progress is ready to deliver its all-important report to the council.

Allowing Russian athletes to compete in Rio would be met with outrage by many athletes and administrators, who feel a ban which takes in only one major championship - the World Indoor Championships in March, which many athletes opted to miss anyway - is insufficient for the extent of cheating uncovered.

Indeed, WADA on Wednesday night said Russia still had "serious challenges" to overcome in its drug-testing programme.

Coe is under enormous political pressure from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to let the sporting superpower back in but may also face stiff questioning about the Panorama programme.

The programme, which was broadcast on Thursday night on BBC One, revealed a series of text messages between Papa Massata Diack, Coe and Coe's right-hand man at the IAAF, Nick Davies.

They suggest Papa Massata Diack advised Coe on what to say during the campaign, told him to avoid talking about the doping allegations swirling around the IAAF but to praise Lamine Diack, and gave him inside information on rival Sergey Bubka's strategy.

The IAAF issued a strong denial on Coe's behalf.

The federation said Coe was right to pass on to the ethics commission information he received in 2014 about allegations of a plot to blackmail a Russian athlete over blood results.

It said the panel told Coe it was already aware of the allegations which were being ''actively investigated'', so left the case with them.

''Seb has never denied hearing rumours about corruption,'' the IAAF statement continued.

''In fact he has said on many occasions that when alerted to rumours he asked people to pass them on to the ethics commission to be investigated.''

In regard to his failure to read the attachments to an email he was sent by former British athlete and London Marathon director Dave Bedford, the IAAF said: ''You may think this shows a lack of curiosity.

''He, and we, would argue that it shows a full duty of care: ensuring the right people in the right place were aware of allegations and were investigating them.''

The IAAF dismissed the allegation that Coe sought the help of Papa Massata Diack for campaign advice.

''As with any campaign lots of people offer advice - wanted or not, some helpful, some not,'' it said.

''You try to be civil but wary. This was the case with Mr Diack.

''He sent messages of support whilst at the same time supporting other candidates and accusing Seb Coe of leading a British media campaign against both him and his father.''

It concluded by saying it had not seen the BBC's ''electronic evidence''.

Russia's sports minister Vitaly Mutko has written to Coe and the IAAF Council calling on them not to punish the country's clean athletes and insists Russia has "done everything that the IAAF independent commission has rightly asked of us" in order to be reinstated.

Mutko said Russia had introduced independent and additional testing, overhauled the country's anti-doping agency and athletics federation, tightened doping laws and brought in a public education programme around doping.

Mutko wrote in the letter: "Clean athletes who have dedicated years of their lives to training and who never sought to gain unfair advantage through doping should not be punished for the past actions of other individuals.

"Additionally, Russia's athletes must not be singled out as the only ones to be punished for a problem that is widely acknowledged to go far beyond our country's borders.

"Russia has done everything that the IAAF independent commission has rightly asked of us in order to be reinstated to athletic competition. I hope that after witnessing us institute the changes you demanded, I have given you the reassurance that we should be readmitted."

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