Q&A: Internal papers show IAAF wrestled with Russia doping

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Posted: Jan 12, 2016 1:44 PM
Q&A: Internal papers show IAAF wrestled with Russia doping

PARIS (AP) — The Associated Press on Tuesday published findings from internal IAAF documents that show how track and field's governing body wrestled at multiple levels with rampant doping in Russia.

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WHAT DO THE DOCUMENTS SHOW?

They show the International Association of Athletics Federations long wrestled behind the scenes to curb Russia's doping crisis. The scandal exploded with full force with a damning German TV documentary in 2014 that exposed corruption and cover-ups. That prompted a World Anti-Doping Agency probe. It found Russian government complicity in systematic, widespread cheating. That prompted the IAAF in November 2015 to ban Russia from competition.

But from reading the internal IAAF documents, one wonders why it didn't adopt such a tough line sooner. As long ago as 2009, it already was warning Russia of suspected blood doping so startling it feared athletes might die from abuse of banned blood-boosting drugs and transfusions, and demanded "immediate and drastic action."

Pierre Weiss, the IAAF general secretary from 2006-2011, said in an AP phone interview the governing body couldn't have suspended Russia earlier than last year, after the WADA probe concluded that President Vladimir Putin's government was complicit in a "deeply rooted culture of cheating."

"WADA found out more than we could ever find ourselves," he said. "Suspicion is not enough to suspend people."

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WHERE DO THE PAPERS COME FROM?

The AP was given the documents from a source involved in the workings of the IAAF's anti-doping program for years. The source believes the documents show that the governing body tried to do its job in dealing with Russia and that many people inside the organization were aware of and involved in that effort before the IAAF's abrupt U-turn last November, when its council voted 22-1 to ban Russia. The papers span 2009, when the IAAF started using new blood-screening techniques to snare dopers, to 2015, when the crisis became a scandal possibly even graver than that at football governing body FIFA.

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ANY SURPRISES?

Absolutely. By 2011, with the London Olympics approaching, the IAAF was facing such a large number of cases of suspected Russian doping that officials explored ways of dealing with some of them quickly and quietly under the public radar, even if that meant breaking rules, two documents show.

A Dec. 5, 2011, internal note marked "IAAF Confidential" proposed "rapid and discreet" handling of 10 suspected blood-doping cases involving lower-level Russian athletes. For those who signed off on the deal, the IAAF would in return promise not to make public their bans, it said. It noted this was contrary to usual IAAF practice.

A follow-up note four months later, marked "STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL," proposed that the IAAF also violate its own rules by "exceptionally" allowing the sanctioned, lower-level athletes to keep their competition results. It noted that this was "contrary to what is laid down in Rule 40.8."

But this more lenient, hush-hush treatment wouldn't be extended to all athletes: only to those whose sudden disappearance from competition might slip by unnoticed, said the April 10, 2012, note.

The IAAF told the AP the proposals were never put into practice.

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WHAT WERE IAAF OFFICIALS THINKING?

Being generous, it seems officials weren't ignoring Russian doping but rather were seeking expedient ways of dealing with the large number of cases thrown up by the IAAF's "blood passport" anti-doping program before the 2012 London Games.

Athletes' blood readings are monitored over months and years, for tell-tale changes that could be due to doping. The IAAF program got going in 2009. By late 2011, this detection method was starting to snare scores of Russian athletes, with 23 cases at various stages in the pipeline toward possible sanctions.

"In 2011 there was a huge influx of suspicious profiles coming through," IAAF spokesman Chris Turner said in a statement to the AP. "There was a need to prioritize, and in particular to expedite those cases which involved potential medal winners ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games. No cases were concealed or suppressed, the IAAF simply tackled them in order of importance."

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WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?

Turner said the December 2011 note was sent by IAAF anti-doping director Gabriel Dolle to Habib Cisse, who was legal counsel to then-IAAF President Lamine Diack. The 2012 follow-up note was from Dolle to Diack, Turner said.

Turner said a colleague of Dolle's in the anti-doping department objected at the time to the proposed non-disclosure of bans and was assured by Dolle that sanctions would be published, "which they were."

"Every suspicious (blood passport) profile was investigated in full accordance with IAAF rules and the World Anti-Doping Code," Turner said. "All confirmed doping cases were publicly sanctioned. Nothing was covered-up."

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John Leicester is an international sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jleicester@ap.org or follow him at http://twitter.com/johnleicester and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/John-Leicester-Associated-Press-Sports-Columnist-579349882203298/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel