By Mitch Phillips
LONDON (Reuters) – A report by the World Anti-Doping Agency on Monday is set to deepen an athletics scandal that, according to one of the document’s authors, eclipses even the alleged corruption at soccer’s governing body FIFA.
According to leaks to a French investigative news organisation, Mediapart, the WADA report will say that athletics officials tried to extort money from leading athletes, including a Turkish Olympic champion, in return for concealing the fact that they had failed drugs tests.
One of the co-authors of the report, Richard McLaren, a Canadian law professor and sports lawyer, told the Sunday Times: “This is a whole different scale of corruption than the FIFA scandal. This report is going to be a real game-changer.
“Here you potentially have a bunch of old men who put a whole lot of extra money in their pockets — through extortion and bribes — but also caused significant changes to actual results and final standings of international athletics competitions.”
FIFA has been thrown into turmoil by the U.S. indictments of 14 soccer officials and sports marketing executives for alleged corruption, and its president Sepp Blatter is suspended and facing criminal investigation in Switzerland.
The former head of the International Association of Athletics Federations, Lamine Diack of Senegal, was last week placed under formal judicial investigation in France on suspicion of corruption, along with two other former IAAF officials.
His successor, Briton Sebastian Coe, told Reuters on Sunday: “My job is very simple now and there is no ambiguity about it. It is to rebuild trust in our sport.”
He said it would be “a long road to redemption”.
The WADA report, according to the leaked French account, is expected to implicate relations of Diack. One of his sons has left his marketing role within the IAAF while under investigation for corrupt practices. The family has dismissed what they described as excessive and insignificant accusations.
The report is also expected to single out former Russian athletics federation head Valentin Balakhnichev.
On Saturday Balakhnichev rejected allegations that his federation worked with top IAAF officials to try to blackmail athletes in the run-up to the 2012 London Olympics.
“Let them present their claims to me, I will fight them,” Russian news agencies quoted him as saying.
Among athletes allegedly targeted for extortion was Russian marathon runner Liliya Shobukhova, who featured in a German documentary in December 2014 that alleged systematic doping by Russian athletes.
Shobukhova was banned for doping and was stripped of marathon victories in London and Chicago. But two months ago, WADA cut her ban, saying she had provided it with important information to expose wrongdoing by others.
Turkey’s Asli Cakir Alptekin, the 1,500 metres Olympic champion in 2012, was also approached by IAAF officials demanding payment of $500,000, according to the leaks.
She was give a second doping ban last summer and stripped of her Olympic medal.
On Sunday IAAF chief Coe said neither he nor anyone else at the IAAF had seen the report, but he was shocked and saddened by the accusations against his predecessor Diack.
“I will await the WADA report but I think the focus of those allegations was about the ability of people to be in a position to manipulate systems and that is what we will look at very carefully,” Coe told Reuters after announcing he had accelerated a planned internal reform process.
“If that is found to be the case, then clearly we need to have systems in place that are not just about secure systems but people inside those systems being secure and proper people.”
WADA will release its report at 1400 GMT on Monday and hold a news conference immediately afterwards in Geneva.
(Editing by Mark Trevelyan)