IAAF head Coe accused of misleading UK parliamentary inquiry

LONDON — A report published by British legislators has accused IAAF President Sebastian Coe of misleading a parliamentary inquiry into doping.

The digital, culture, media and sports committee's report was critical of Coe's responses to questions regarding how much he knew about doping within track and field before the problems were revealed by investigative journalists and whistle-blowers.

The committee suggested Coe could have acted sooner to clean up the sport while he served as vice president of the international track and field federation until 2015, when he won an election to succeed Lamine Diack as president.

Coe appeared before the committee in December 2015.

In the report published Monday, legislators said Coe "sought to distance himself from any knowledge of the allegations of doping in Russian athletics before the details were exposed in the German documentary," in December 2014.

This is despite allegations that Dave Bedford, a former British distance runner and London Marathon director, telephoned Coe in August 2014 to tell him about Russian marathoner Liliya Shobukhova being extorted out of hundreds of thousands of dollars to have a positive doping test covered up by IAAF officials so she could compete in the 2012 London Olympics.

Bedford later sent an email to Coe containing attachments that outlined the plot. The existence of this email emerged six months after Coe's appearance before the committee, but he declined a subsequent invitation to return and explain what had occurred.

Instead Coe wrote to legislators to say that Bedford had not discussed the details with him on the phone and he simply forwarded the email to the IAAF's ethics committee chairman without opening the attachments.

"(Coe's) answers to us about this were misleading," the committee report said. "Lord Coe may not have read the email and attachments sent to him by David Bedford, whose actions we commend, but it stretches credibility to believe that he was not aware, at least in general terms, of the main allegations that the ethics commission had been asked to investigate.

"It is certainly disappointing that Lord Coe did not take the opportunity, given to him by David Bedford, to make sure he was fully informed of the serious issues at stake in the Shobukhova case and their wider implications for the governance of the anti-doping rules at the IAAF."

The committee said these are "matters of the greatest seriousness and affect the reputation of both the IAAF and Lord Coe."

"We wish, in the future, to see rigorous systems in place to deal with such matters and individuals acting with curiosity and concern when presented with compelling, important evidence," the report said.

The legislators did acknowledge "progress that the IAAF is making in establishing more independent processes for the investigation of serious complaints brought by whistleblowers."

"However, the Shobukhova case raises concerns about whether national or international sports federations are capable of investigating themselves when the allegations involve senior figures within the organization itself," the report states. "There is a real danger that internal politics inevitably plays a part in the process."

The IAAF defended its commitment to eradicating doping, saying in a statement that it takes the fight "very seriously" as highlighted by the decision to ban the Russian athletics federation in 2015. The suspension persists despite the International Olympic Committee last week lifting its own ban on Russia in the wake of a state-sponsored doping scheme.

The IAAF said it would write to the select committee "to explain some of the more complex aspects of anti-doping that have been misunderstood, and will seek to have all of the documents that the IAAF provided to the Committee placed on the DCMS website, as some of it appears to be missing."

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