Le Monde and ARD: Criminal Practices in Athletics – Doping and Cover-Ups on Shocking Scale

Hajo Seppelt


Le Monde and ARD: Criminal Practices in Athletics – Doping and Cover-Ups on Shocking Scale

Von /By Hajo Seppelt and Daniel Bouhs

Research conducted by French daily newspaper Le Monde and German broadcaster ARD suggests that extortion, dubious financial transactions and other mafia-style practices have been employed in international athletics over a period of many years.

Leading representatives of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) are believed to have deliberately ignored highly suspicious blood test results for at least six top athletes since 2011 – each in return receiving payments of between €300,000 and €700,000. The organized cover-up of suspected doping in the world of track and field has as such assumed a previously unimagined scale. And once again it is primarily athletes from one nation under scrutiny: Russia.

The revelations come from documents in the possession of the Paris prosecutors' office for financial crimes, which had launched investigations in the aftermath of a report by ARD in 2014. At the time, Russian long-distance runner Liliya Shobukhova was the sole athlete under investigation. Since then, however, the investigators have uncovered a far wider picture; after likewise recording suspicious doping tests, walkers Valeriy Borchin, Olga Kaniskina, Vladimir Kanaikin, Sergey Kirdyapkin, and steeplechase runner Yuliya Zaripova – all Russian – are believed to have been blackmailed by IAAF dignitaries.


The investigators’ files show that following payment, the IAAF consequently ignored the conspicuous blood data; the Russian athletes were thus free to compete in and win medals at the Olympics, World Championships and other international competitions. According to the documents seen by ARD, these six individuals are part of a list of 23 athletes whose names appear in a document in connection with doping cover-ups. 


The investigators have overwhelming evidence at their disposal: of e-mails from IAAF staff to Valentin Balakhnichev – then president of the Russian athletics federation and formerly treasurer of the IAAF; since handed a lifetime ban by the governing body – repeatedly notifying him of the dubious test results of his athletes. Russian federation officials in turn sent e-mails to the IAAF officials, reminding them of the new interdependencies: "Naming it as a DEAL, we are too much diplomatic. It was cynical and cruel blackmail. [...] The reputation of the IAAF, its president and the key anti-doping responsible officers will get a huge black spot."

Furthermore the correspondence says: "We will not remain silent. [...] We have enough evidence to prove criminal activities of the IAAF people."

IAAF officials in addition appear to have been busy making and shifting substantial sums of money behind the scenes. The Paris prosecutors' office believes that Balakhnichev wired €1.5 million to then IAAF president Lamine Diack. The investigators recently questioned Diack on the issue after charging him on suspicion of corruption and aggravated money-laundering. His response: ”At no point was there any talk of payments by Russian athletes. I would never have asked an athlete for money, or taken money from one – and the same goes for Valentin. If I had to ask a Russian for money, I would go to Putin.”

Diack’s son Papa Massata is likewise suspected of having laundered millions of dollars via offshore accounts and other assets. Here, too, the name Balakhnichev features in documents as the owner of an offshore firm on the Caribbean islands of Saint Kitts and Nevis.

Lamine Diack and his son are also believed to have made huge profits from the covering-up of doping test results – as suggested by text messages between Papa Massata Diack and a legal adviser to the IAAF, Habib Cissé. The Paris-based attorney has himself been charged on suspicion of corruption. 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 waiting,” answered Diack. ”Five is OK.”

Meanwhile the French investigators say they have found evidence of outside manipulation of athletes such as Shobukhova. Documents seized from IAAF attorney Habib Cissé originating from sources linked to the Russian sporting authorities suggest that the then world’s best female marathon runner suffering an injury at the start of her race at the 2012 Olympics in London and then failing to even finish was pre-orchestrated; she was permitted to compete but not to win a medal. The idea seems to have been that if she were later to be banned on doping grounds, there would be no medal to revoke.


The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has likewise evidently been playing a contentious role in the new scandal. 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 the 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.

Did individuals within the IAAF play an active role in distorting major sporting events such as the 2013 World Athletics Championships in Moscow and the 2012 Summer Olympics in London? The IAAF has refused to comment on these serious allegations. Meanwhile the president of the German athletics association is unequivocal in his response. Clemens Prokop told ARD that the latest revelations left him ”stunned.” He called the practice ”plain criminal.” The IAAF’s ethics commission, he added, was guilty of ”abject failure” while the consequences for the credibility of the organization were ”disastrous” and would cause ”incredible damage to the world of sport.”

Asked about the hesitant approach from the global anti-doping body, Prokop said that the WADA had ”failed across the board. Should irregular conduct be confirmed, the inevitable consequence is for the individuals involved to resign from their positions.”

Additional research: Felix Becker, Florian Riesewieck, Olga Sviridenko

Mitteilung von Valentin Balakhnichev an Funktionäre der IAAF vom 30. 07.2014

Message from Valentin Balakhnichev to officials of the IAAF (07/30/14)

Dear Colleagues,

Please be aware that we received your last and final reminder about ARAF pending cases. This has been done in accordance with the IAAF Anti-Rules. However, let us remind you that the background of these six cases from the very beginning was very far from any legal and ethical frames.

Launching the ABP and data collection from 2009, you have never consulted with us and have never discussed possible negative consequences of all these activities. Later we could find an explanation of such conspiracy. You decided to use multiple ABP violations by the Russian athletes as an excellent way for your own prosperity. In 2011 when we faced shocking 19 ABP cases including Olympic and World champions, you offered us a deal.

Naming it as a DEAL, we are too much diplomatic. It was cynical and cruel blackmail. Emphatically mentioning the threat of withdrawing the WCH 2013 and negative political consequences for the Russian sports in general, you forced us to enter into long relationships for covering these ADR.

As a result, several Russian athletes were allowed to compete at the Olympic Games 2012 and won medals while all ABP data had been already prepared by that moment and they should not have been permitted to compete at 0G 2012 under no circumstances. Furthermore, you went on with this TOTAL PROTECTION PROJECT in 2013.

As we understand, after 3-year conspiracy game, you decided to play "fair" and in accordance with IAAF Rules. It is your choice but we are confident that it is not a wise step. The game which was begun far outside the law does not have any single chance to return inside the legal boundaries without numerous losses. Human losses, reputational losses and financial losses. This will ruin not only the ARAF. The reputation of the IAAF, its President and key antidoping responsible officers will get a huge black spot. Their careers will be easily destroyed.

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. We kept all correspondence (sms, e-mail) between ARAF and "IAAF Ambassadors" acting on behalf of the IAAF President. We are ready to disclose the number of visits of "IAAF Ambassadors" in the territory of the Russian Federation and to give explanation concerning the purpose of these visits. We are ready to disclose the total amount of "means" which you received in the period of 2Ol 1-2013. We have numerous witnesses who may confirm these frustrating facts.

Our explanations will affect a lot of IAAF personnel including anti-doping administrator and his colleagues who directly or indirectly have been involved in this matter. You always mentioned several WADA officers and other "mighty" anti-doping persons with whom you have been in touch all this time. All their names will be also disclosed.

Finally, during our numerous and long meetings "the IAAF Ambassadors" showed us the list of athletes with ABP violations which included not only Russian athletes. Surprisingly, we found there some prominent British athletes including Olympic champion and icon of the GB sports. Our question is why did not the IAAF to require from GB Athletics to sanction these athletes. Be sure that this question will be asked in our explanations and the names of the athletes who were under ABP investigation will also be disclosed. We will demand fair and transparent public procedure in regard of all athletes with the alleged ABP violations.

We are ready to submit all our documents to the IOC, the WADA and international anticorruption committees and will assist them in finding and punishing every person who participated in this matter.

But we have another way to move forward. We are ready to help you and to remain confidential all our evidence. 1 think we need to discuss it and to take final decision jointly.

Email vom 10. Juni 2014 an die IAAF von einer Person, die in Verbindung mit dem Russischen Leichtathletikverband steht, mit weitergeleitetem Schreiben mutmaßlich von Valentin Balakhnichev

Email to IAAF from a person connected to the Russian Athletics Federation on June 10th, 2014, with a forwarded message presumedly from Valentin Balakhnichev 

Fwd: pending cases

Sujet: Fwd: pending cases

De : hcisse@xxx.xxx

Date : 17/06/2014 15:41

Pour: “hcisse@xxx.xxx” hcisse@xxx.xxx

Envoyé de mon iPad

Début du message transféré

Expéditeur: <xxx@mail.ru >

Date:               10 juin 2014 04:36:15 UTC-04:00

Destinataire: hcisse@xxx.xxxx

Objet:             pending cases

Répondre à: <xxx@mail.ru >

Dear Habib,

Valentin has prepared and asked me to send you the brief analysis of the actual situation (see attached).
Kind regards,


––––––––Pièces jointes–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––                                                                                 


Re: ARAF pending cases

The ARAF has recently received a bunch of IAAF letters concerning pending cases of Russian athletes.

The IAAF insists that the ARAF shall finalize these pending cases and render decisions according to the IAAF Anti-Doping Rules. The IAAF refers to the Acceptance of Sanctions (hereinafter referred as AS) allegedly signed by the athletes.

I shall remind you that these AS had been provided to the IAAF under guarantees that the AS would be kept in confidentiality and used only in extraordinary and emergency circumstances. As we understand, at the present moment this is not a case.

Therefore, we may not now use these AS as an evidence since the Athletes would challenge it and this can cause a lot of legal and ethical issues.

Moreover, as you remember all whole story had been initiated before the OG2012 and was proposed by the IAAF representatives under title "full protection". Appropriate funds have been provided for successful completion of the story. We strongly believe that the only way to avoid a huge scandal concerning covering-up the numerous ADRV which also involved almost all responsible IAAF officers is continuing joint efforts to keep the situation "under the table" as it was happening all these years.

The position of people who provided funds is clear. The obligations shall be fulfilled. Consequently, the official sanctioning including disqualification of results and medals is a direct way to destroy both – the ARAF and IAAF. Official way is the worst scenario since the situation will be beyond of our control and the decisions will be taken by another people here.

Summarizing abovementioned, we need to hold a meeting with participation of all involved persons in order to discuss our further steps for settling the story.

NDR | Stand: 25.11.2016, 09:36