By Mitch Phillips
LONDON (Reuters) – Just as the IAAF is about to endorse wide-ranging changes to its governance aimed at making the organization more ethical, transparent and accountable, world athletics’ governing body is being assailed by more claims of corruption.
International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Council officials will receive on Thursday an update from the Task Force looking at progress being made on anti-doping in Russia and whether there is any indication that the country could return to the athletics fold a year after being banned.
There will be a more upbeat feel about Friday’s proceedings as the athletes of the year are named in a gala event that was canceled last year amid the chaotic fallout of a series of corruption allegations and revelations at the heart of the IAAF’s former leadership.
On Saturday, the ruling body’s president Sebastian Coe will present to the IAAF Congress his much-trumpeted “Time for Change” document, already approved by the Council, which will introduce a raft of measures to alter the way his organization is run and policed.
In his foreword to the document, Coe wrote: “It is a framework that will help the next generation to protect, promote and provide for athletes and athletics in a responsible, responsive, accessible and transparent way. It is time to leap not to tip-toe.”
While Coe’s focus is determinedly on the future, the stories still swirling around the IAAF’s past refuse to go away.
French newspaper Le Monde and German broadcaster ARD said last week they have seen evidence of demands for payments of hundreds of thousands of dollars by Russian athletes to IAAF officials in exchange for covering up failed drug tests.
The documents were said to be from the ongoing investigation by French prosecutors into former IAAF president Lamine Diack, his son Papa Massata Diack and others over alleged corruption and money-laundering.
Reuters has not seen, nor is able to verify, the existence of those documents. France’s national financial prosecutor’s office declined to comment on Le Monde’s report, in order to protect the investigation, it said.
The IAAF said it was committed to rooting out any instances of wrongdoing in the past.
“We cannot comment on the specifics of the (Le Monde) article whilst the criminal investigation is underway,” the governing body said in a statement.
“It is clear we all need to get to the bottom of what has happened which is what the French criminal investigation is doing and we continue to assist them as required.
“We are taking bold steps to safeguard the sport in the future with the reforms we are introducing including setting up the Integrity Unit and Disciplinary Tribunal.”
The latest accusations came after three senior IAAF officials were suspended in June over payoff allegations.
Last year’s independent World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) investigation, which exposed state-sponsored Russian doping, also said “corruption was embedded” at the IAAF under Diack who, it said, ran a clique that covered up organized doping and blackmailed athletes while senior officials looked the other way.
(Additonal reporting by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Ed Osmond)