Coe's IAAF presidency victory linked to corrupt official

IAAF President Sebastian Coe attends a news conference after the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) council meeting in Vienna, Austria, June 17, 2016 © Leonhard Foeger
The BBC has claimed Lord Sebastian Coe won the presidency of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) aided by the man at the heart of the sport's doping scandal.

The Panorama program has reportedly seen text messages which suggest former IAAF consultant Papa Massata Diack, now wanted by Interpol, secured votes for Lord Coe's election victory.

The two-time British Olympic 1500m champion has denied any wrongdoing.

His spokeswoman, Jackie Brock-Doyle, said: "As with any campaign, lots of people offer advice - wanted or not, some helpful, some not. You try to be civil but wary.

"This was the case with Mr Diack. He sent messages of support whilst at the same time supporting other candidates and accusing Seb Coe of leading a British media campaign against both him and his father."

Coe is also alleged to have misled a parliamentary select committee over when he first knew about the allegations of doping and corruption in athletics.

Coe became IAAF president during a growing corruption scandal involving mass doping in Russia.

His predecessor, the Senegalese Diack Sr, was arrested soon after Coe's election and a warrant issued for the arrest of his son.

A German television documentary in December 2014 had reported that Russian and IAAF officials, including Diack Jr, had conspired to cover up doping by Russian athlete Lilya Shobukhova.

Coe was not linked to any of the doping or corruption allegations, but he had been a member of the IAAF council since 2003 and a vice-president since 2007.

He was asked last year by MPs at a select committee meeting why he had not been more active in pursuing doping issues while he was a vice-president.

"I was certainly not aware of the specific allegations that had been made around the corruption of anti-doping processes in Russia," Coe said.

When asked if he was aware of allegations against Diack Jr, he said: "Well, they were allegations that were aired in the ARD documentary."

However, both the BBC and the Daily Mail reported they had seen an email that was sent to Coe four months before the documentary aired which detailed the corruption, extortion and bribery allegations, as well as the suggestion that Diack Jr may have been involved.

The attachments also included a complaint from Shobukhova's agent, alleging she had paid Russian and IAAF officials around $500,000 to cover up her doping and allow her to run in the London 2012 Olympics.

Damian Collins MP, who sits on the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, said: "I think his (Lord Coe's) answer to the select committee was deliberately misleading to create the impression that he was totally unaware of any specific allegations of this kind.

"These involved serious criminal matters. The right thing to do would be to put that information into the hands of the criminal authorities straight away.

"If he won't be drawn on the past and what he knew and can't come up with a compelling argument for the way he conducted himself, then I don't see how he could continue as president of the IAAF because he would lack the public support to do so."

Coe admitted he was forwarded emails about the corruption allegations, but claims he sent them on to the IAAF ethics committee for it to investigate.

Brock-Doyle said Coe hadn't felt it was necessary to open the attachments.

"You may think this shows a lack of curiosity," she said. "He, and we, would argue that it shows a full duty of care, ensuring the right people in the right place were aware of allegations and were investigating them."

Jack Robertson, a former chief investigator for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), was shown the text messages by the BBC.

"It appears that Coe is taking advice from someone who is at the center of this scandal to extort athletes," said Robertson.

"It's wrong on so many fronts. It's not just disappointing, it's disgusting."

In an interview with Panorama, Diack Jr said Coe would not have become IAAF president without his help.

"If he had not the blessing of Lamine Diack or my support, he would have never been elected as the IAAF president," he said.

"He knows that."

Robertson believes Coe "got in bed with the devil" to win the election.

"I don't mean to call Papa Diack the devil, but he was certainly in the middle of the investigation," he said.

"And if he (Coe) makes a decision such as that, how can we trust him with other decisions? My bottom line is clean athletes deserve better."

After these revelations, a senior Conservative MP, Jesse Norman, said the 'jury is out' on whether he had confidence in Coe in his current role.

"I’d say it’s almost certain we’ll want to have Lord Coe back in front of the committee, I don’t want to get too far ahead of where the committee is going to be, but these are very serious matters.

“I think when Lord Coe appeared in front of the committee in December his answers were very general ones in many ways, specifically on this issue to my colleague Ian Lucas [a Labour MP], and the idea he received this email and, as I understand from his account, not have opened it, having been associated with the IAAF in a senior position at that point for six years, and aware of the possibility of individual cases of dishonesty and corruption, is very, very disturbing.”

Norman would not be drawn on Coe's future as IAAF president, but hinted that it would be difficult for him to stay in his job in those circumstances.

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