Former IAAF officials face life bans over Shobukhova doping extortion

Liliya Shobukhova (C) of Russia celebrates winning the women's London marathon, with second placed Inga Abitova (R) of Russia and third placed Asefelech Mergia of Ethiopia, in London April 25, 2010. © Andrew Winning
The International Association of Athletics Federations' (IAAF) ethics commission began a disciplinary hearing on Wednesday into four senior officials accused of extorting money from top Russian athlete Liliya Shobukhova to cover up her doping offences.

Papa Massata Diack - son of the former president of the world athletics' governing body, Lamine Diack - former IAAF anti-doping director Gabriel Dolle, ex-Russian Athletics Federation president and IAAF treasurer Valentin Balakhnichev and Russia's former chief coach for long-distance athletes Alexey Melnikov were named by the IAAF as being investigated. A fifth, unnamed person is also facing disciplinary charges.

All are charged with various breaches of the IAAF's code of ethics and could face lifetime bans. The three-day hearing is taking place in London, although none of the officials are expected to attend.

The charges involve Russian marathon runner Shobukhova, who turned whistleblower for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) earlier this year.

According to testimony given by Shobukhova, she paid around $600,000 for violations to be covered up in order to avoid suspension.

The panel is made up by ethics commission chairman Michael Beloff QC, Thomas H Murray, an American who is president emeritus of the renowned research institution the Hastings Center, and Japan's Akira Kawamura, a former president of the International Bar Association.

"A hearing has been fixed to take place in London over 16-18 December 2015, to consider the cases against them, including their defences and evidence to be provided by or on their behalf. In accordance with the rules of the ethics commission the hearing will be held in private," said a statement from Beloff last month.

Alongside the hearing, investigations by French police are still continuing into allegations that senior IAAF officials took bribes in return for covering up positive drug tests.

Lamine Diack is suspected of receiving more than $1,100,000.

It is thought a decision will be released in early January.

The IAAF has banned Russia from international competition after a report by WADA's independent commission, headed by the body’s former President Dick Pound, who is due to publish the second part of his findings on January 14.

READ MORE: IAAF suspends Russia, 2016 Olympics participation in doubt

"When we release this information to the world there will be a ‘wow’ factor. I think people will say 'How on earth could this happen?' It's a complete betrayal of what the people in charge of the sport should be doing," Pound has already warned.

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