IAAF chief tipped off on insider corruption – IAAF member to British MPs

The head of the International Athletic Federation (IAAF), Sebastian Coe, was warned about corruption in the organization years ago when he was its vice-president, IAAF member David Bedford, who alerted Coe, told a UK parliamentary committee.

Bedford, who is the chairman of the IAAF's road racing commission, testified on Tuesday before the British Culture, Media and Sport Parliamentary Select Committee. Bedford, a former sportsman, claimed that he raised the issue with Coe in a telephone call in 2014. In particular, Bedford mentioned Russian marathon runner Liliya Shobukhova. She was allegedly forced to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to senior IAAF officials to cover-up of her positive doping probe to participate in the 2012 London Olympics.

After asking Coe whether he knew about that, Bedford said he received a negative answer. “I said: ‘In that case I am going to forward by email copies of the documents, because I believe you need to see them,’” Bedford told MPs on Tuesday.

He then sent an email with the revelatory documents on August 8, 2014 to Coe. On August 14, Bedford sent another message, since he did not receive any answer, but again heard nothing back, he told the committee. 

“Hope this is not a start of a cover up,’’ the ex-athlete wrote in a text to Coe, since no answer from then IAAF vice-president followed. Coe claimed that he did not open the email, rather forwarding it directly to the IAAF ethics board.

The reported alert by Bedford dates two weeks prior to the release of a German documentary aired on the ARD channel in 2014. The piece exposed doping scandals, largely focusing on alleged abuses by Russian athletes. In December 2015, Coe told the British Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee that he “was certainly not aware of the specific allegations that have been made around the corruption of anti-doping processes in Russia,” until the German documentary was aired.

During his testimony, Bedford said he was “very surprised and quite disappointed” to hear Coe stating that. In light of Bedford’s testimony, the parliamentary committee wants now to push for new testimony from Coe. “He [Coe] said that he was unaware of the specific allegations until they were broadcast in the ARD documentary, but Bedford’s evidence casts some doubt on this,” committee chairman Damian Collins said.

Yet in a  from the IAAF, the body claimed that Bedford’s testimony "has offered nothing new to the committee's inquiry" and that Coe "has no further information he can provide to the inquiry." 

Bedford, for his part, said Tuesday that he is worried about the ethics of some members of the IAAF council, as well as of its ethics committee.

“Unfortunately, the ethics of some people within the IAAF office, and the ethics of some Council members has allowed this shocking abuse of power to happen, and I think it’s more important how the IAAF ensure that this cannot happen again,” Bedford said.

Speaking to RT, sports columnist Alan Moore said that it was hard for Coe to take any action as he was trying to balance his private activities and the post at the IAAF.

“It was hard for him to do anything because at the time he was balancing two acts. He was balancing his business – he was an ambassador for Nike – and he was also balancing his progression within the IAAF to the top job,” Moore said.

So Coe “had to play politics” and “not sell anybody out,” the sports columnist said.