(Reuters) – Russia has nothing to fear from the latest scandal to rock world athletics, the acting head of the country’s federation said on Thursday, after French media reported a corruption investigation involved alleged Russian drugs cheats.
Lamine Diack, the former head of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) was placed under formal investigation in France on Wednesday on suspicion of corruption and money laundering, prosecutors said.
French TV news channel iTELE reported that the investigation was focused on suspicions that payments were made in return for not revealing widespread doping of Russian athletes, although the prosecutor’s office did not confirm that.
Russia’s Vadim Zelichenok told Reuters the case “did not involve” his organisation.
Russian athletes were at the centre of allegations this year that the IAAF had failed to investigate hundreds of dubious blood tests carried out between 2001 and 2012.
The IAAF said it was cooperating with the French investigation. Reuters has not been able to reach Diack for comment. A spokesman at France’s financial prosecutor’s office said he was released on bail of 500,000 euros.
The French investigation followed a complaint by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which has scheduled a news conference for Monday to address certain findings of its own investigation.
“No one has been in touch with the new representatives of the Russian Athletics Federation (VFLA) about the current situation,” Zelichenok said on Thursday.
“We have not received one question from any organisation. Therefore, this case does not involve the VFLA in any way at the moment. Let’s wait for some official information.
“We do not intend to carry out any individual actions on our own. In my opinion, we are not facing any kind of sanctions.”
Zelichenok said new IAAF president Sebastian Coe had met Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko and the president of the Russian Olympic Committee Alexander Zhukov in Moscow in the past few days and had good relationship with the VFLA.
“We are in contact with him a lot. The fact that Coe came to us tells you that he wants to work with us,” Zelichenok said.
Earlier this week, Nikita Kamaev of Russia’s anti-doping agency RUSADA said in an interview with the Russian R-Sport news agency that his organisation was ready to help French investigators if contacted.
WADA launched a commission to investigate allegations raised during German broadcaster ARD’s December 2014 documentary on doping in Russia.
WADA said its goal was “to investigate the validity of allegations of doping practices; corrupt practices around sample collection and results management; and, other ineffective administration of anti-doping processes that implicate Russia, the IAAF, athletes, coaches, trainers, doctors and other members of athletes’ entourages; as well as, the accredited laboratory based in Moscow and the Russian Anti-Doping Agency”.
(Writing by Martyn Herman; Reporting by Dmitriy Rogovitskiy; Editing by Alison Williams)