Sun, Nov 08, 2015 - Page 18 News List

IAAF cancels gala as scandal widens

KENYAN CRISIS:National Olympic Committee of Kenya chairman Kipchoge Keino said that the nation needs to deal with the doping issue ‘or else we are in big trouble’

Reuters, LONDON

International Association of Athletics Federations president Sebastian Coe speaks at a press conference in New Delhi on Oct. 5.

Photo: AFP

Athletics on Friday lurched deeper into crisis with the showcase sport of the Olympics scrapping its year-end gala after French officials began investigating the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) former president for corruption.

Elsewhere, track and field glamor nation Kenya was warned that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is serious about a possible four-year ban unless athletics officials step up anti-doping efforts.

A double Olympic champion criticized the inaction of new IAAF president Sebastian Coe and suggested the sport’s doping scandal was at least as damaging as the ongoing corruption probe into soccer’s world governing body or the Lance Armstrong cycling controversy.

In addition, the athletics world body announced it had charged four sports officials with ethics violations for allegedly concealing the doping results of a Russian athlete.

The quartet are former IAAF consultant Papa Massata Diack, the son of ex-president Lamine, former All-Russia Athletic Federation president Valentin Balakhnichev, former Russian long-distance coach Alexei Melnikov and former director of the IAAF’s Anti-Doping Department Gabriel Dolle.

The announcement could not save the IAAF’s year-end gala in Monaco — with officials on Friday canceling the Nov. 28 black-tie event in Monaco, which honors the year’s best athletes — because of the sport’s doping scandal.

“Given the cloud that hangs over our association, this is clearly not the time for the global athletics family to be gathering in celebration,” Coe said in a statement.

French authorities announced earlier this week that they had placed former IAAF president Lamine Diack under formal investigation on suspicion of corruption and money laundering.

The 82-year-old Senegalese was questioned by the office of France’s financial prosecutor for allegedly receiving more than 1 million euros (US$1.09 million) in bribes in 2011 to cover up positive doping tests by Russian athletes.

Diack’s family has dismissed what they called the “excessive and insignificant accusations.”

He served as president from 1999 until August, when he was succeeded by Briton Coe, who ran on a platform to reform athletics and improve its integrity.

Days before he was elected, Coe had to deal with allegations that athletes had been escaping censure despite having abnormal blood-test results.

Coe said at the time that the allegations were “a declaration of war on my sport,” but he has been silent on the latest scandal, prompting a stinging rebuke from former British teammate Daley Thompson.

“I don’t think anything much worse could happen to the sport than for the former president to have colluded with the Russian Federation over doping tests,” the 1980 and 1984 Olympic decathlon champion told Talksport radio.

“This to my mind is a 10 or 11 on the Lance Armstrong scale,” Thompson said.

“This is much worse that what [suspended FIFA head] Sepp Blatter has been doing,” he said. “This has not happened on Seb Coe’s watch, but he needs to have a root-and-branch reform ... maybe he needs to make a stand and say what he’s going to do about it.”

A leading Kenyan sports administrator added his voice to the perceived inaction in combating the doping problem, with a warning that unless his nation improved its anti-doping efforts, it faces expulsion from competition, including next year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

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