Reports in German and French media highlight further claims of corruption and blackmail

A message reportedly sent from the former head of the Russian athletics federation Valentin Balakhnichev detailing a ‘total protection project’ doping cover-up has uncovered further claims regarding the involvement of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) in the scandal.

Following research conducted by German broadcaster ARD and French newspaper Le Monde, ARD published what it says is a message from Balakhnichev to officials of the IAAF sent on July 30, 2014.

“We will not remain silent. It was not us who started this game. It was the IAAF project and the IAAF shall be the key victim of future scandal,” ARD reported Balakhnichev as having written.

Within the message Balakhnichev, who was banned for life from athletics earlier this year for his role in the cover-up of doped Russian athletes, accuses the IAAF officials of threatening to remove the country of the 2013 World Championships and “forcing” the All-Russia Athletic Federation into a “long relationship” of subverting anti-doping procedures.

“In 2011 when we faced shocking 19 ABP (athlete biological passport) cases including Olympic and World champions, you offered us a deal,” he reportedly wrote. “Naming it as a DEAL, we are too much diplomatic. It was cynical and cruel blackmail.”

In the message, Balakhnichev also reportedly claims that “IAAF Ambassadors” had shown them “the list of athletes with ABP violations which included not only Russian athletes”.

Allegations concerning the blackmail of Russian marathoner Liliya Shobukhova and concealment of her doping violations form part of an ongoing investigation but in its report on Friday ARD published the names of five further athletes which the broadcaster claims are also implicated.

ARD said its information comes from documents in the possession of the Paris prosecutors’ office for financial crimes, which launched investigations following an ARD report in 2014.

“At the time, Russian long-distance runner Liliya Shobukhova was the sole athlete under investigation,” read Friday’s ARD report in part. “Since then, however, the investigators have uncovered a far wider picture; after likewise recording suspicious doping tests, walkers Valeriy Borchin, Olga Kaniskina, Vladimir Kanaikin, Sergey Kirdyapkin, and steeplechase runner Yuliya Zaripova – all Russian – are believed to have been blackmailed by IAAF dignitaries.”

Earlier this year Balakhnichev, along with former coach Alexei Melnikov and Papa Massata Diack, who is the former marketing consultant to the IAAF and son of ex-IAAF president Lamine Diack, were given life bans from athletics, which they appealed.

Lamine Diack is under investigation in France, while Papa Massata Diack is reportedly in his native Senegal but is wanted by French authorities.

In response to the latest claims, an IAAF spokesperson told AW: “We cannot comment on the specifics of the article whilst the criminal investigation is under way.

“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.”

ARD’s full report can be found in English here.