The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) was on Monday again forced to defend its actions over Russian doping after a leaked e-mail showed how officials planned a damage-limitation strategy before the 2013 Moscow world championships.
The e-mail suggesting a “special dossier” on Russian drugs cheats was from IAAF deputy secretary- general Nick Davies to Papa Massata Diack, the son of former IAAF president Lamine Diack, who then worked for the sport’s governing body as a marketing consultant.
Both Diacks are under investigation over corruption offenses, while Russian athletes are currently banned from the sport following revelations of widespread state-sponsored doping.
The report also criticized the governing body for its “laissez-faire” attitude to the problem. Although the extent of Russian doping is now out in the open, the IAAF was seemingly fighting to keep a lid on it two years ago.
Extracts from the “very secret” e-mail published by French newspaper Le Monde said: “I need to be able to sit down with the anti-doping department and understand exactly what Russian ‘skeletons’ we have still in the cupboard regarding doping.”
“I think that the time to have unveiled the various athletes was a long time ago and that now we need to be smart,” it said.
“We can prepare a special dossier on IAAF testing, which will show that one of the reasons why these Russian athletes come up positive is that they get tested a lot,” it added.
The e-mail, which was sent in July 2013, a month before the Moscow world championships, also suggested that CSM — the sports marketing firm chaired by IAAF president Sebastian Coe, then a vice president — could be used as part of an “unofficial PR [public relations] campaign” to fend off negative stories in the British media.
It also said the IAAF could benefit from Coe’s political influence in Britain to minimize the damage any revelations might cause.
Davies, who now works as Coe’s chief of staff, issued a statement on Monday denying any wrongdoing.
“As director of IAAF communications, it was one of my responsibilities to manage and promote the reputation of the IAAF,” he said.
“My e-mail to Papa Massata Diack was brainstorming around media handling strategies to deal with the serious challenges we were facing around the image of the event,” Davies said.
“No plan was implemented following that e-mail, and there is no possibility any media strategy could ever interfere with the conduct of the anti-doping process,” he said.
“I did not discuss these ideas with CSM and there has never been any agreement between the IAAF and CSM for any PR campaigns. CSM has never worked for the IAAF in any capacity since Sebastian Coe joined the company,” Davies added.
Last week, Le Monde published allegations that Lamine Diack had sought money from Russia to be used to fund a political campaign in his native Senegal. Davies denied any knowledge of such dealings, which Lamine Diack has also denied, or any other criminal wrongdoing within the organization.
Lamine Diack is being investigated on charges that he asked for payment from Russian athletes to cover up positive dope tests.
“I had no knowledge in 2013 that IAAF officials might be involved in alleged criminal conduct in relation to doping cases, nor am I aware of any doping case that was not brought that should have been brought, or of any doping ban that was not published when it should have been published under the IAAF rules,” Davies said.
“When information concerning alleged corruption was brought to my attention in early 2014, I was one of a number of IAAF staff members who referred the matter to the IAAF ethics commission and who have assisted in the resulting investigation by the commission,” he said.
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