LONDON, United Kingdom, June 16 – Embattled world athletics chief Sebastian Coe became embroiled in questions over his own probity on Thursday on the eve of a potentially historic decision as to whether Russian athletes would be able to compete at the Olympics in August.
A BBC documentary claimed the 59-year-old president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) enlisted the help of the fugitive son of disgraced predecessor Lamine Diack to secure his election last year.
He was also accused of possibly misleading a committee of British lawmakers over when he first learnt of the Russian doping scandal that has plagued the sport and his short reign.
Coe, who is to chair an IAAF Council meeting in Vienna on Friday where they will decide whether the Russians have done enough to be allowed to compete in Rio, denied the allegations.
However, Conservative lawmaker Damian Collins, an influential member of the committee, told the BBC if Coe, a former Conservative lawmaker himself, didn’t provide a convincing answer regarding the allegation of misleading him and his colleagues he should resign.
The Panorama documentary claimed they had seen text messages which implied Papa Missata Diack had obtained African votes for Coe’s election victory over Ukrainian pole vault legend Sergey Bubka. He garnered 115 votes to Bubka’s 92.
Diack Junior is presently subject of an arrest warrant by Interpol over corruption charges he and his father — who led the IAAF for 16 years — face in France.
The IAAF, though, issued a statement on behalf of Coe saying he had received counsel from many people in the election campaign.
The statement said it was illogical Diack Junior would have been actively helping him given he and Diack Senior believed the two-time Olympic champion had been orchestrating a campaign against them.
“The suggestion that Seb Coe was actively seeking Papa Massata Diack’s advice about his campaign is wrong,” read the statement issued through the IAAF.
“As with any campaign, lots of people offer advice – wanted or not, some helpful, some not. You try to be civil but wary. This was the case with Mr Diack.
“He sent messages of support while at the same time supporting other candidates and accusing Seb Coe of leading a British media campaign against both him and his father.”
The IAAF said that Coe, who hailed Diack senior as his mentor on his election, had yet to see the text messages allegedly sent by Papa Diack.
– Requests –
“Despite requests to the BBC for sight of the ‘electronic evidence’ so suitable responses can be given, they have not been seen,” said Coe.
Coe, who attracted heavy criticism when he said it was a declaration of war after the allegations over Russia were raised in a German documentary, also rejected the BBC claim he had known about the Russian doping scandal earlier than he had told a parliamentary committee.
The BBC and Daily Mail newspaper claim to have seen an email sent to Coe containing a number of attachments outlining the corruption, extortion and bribery allegations, with the implication Diack Junior could have been involved.
Most damagingly one of the attachments included claims by the agent of Russian marathon runner Lilya Shobukhova that Russian and IAAF officials had blackmailed her over a positive dope test into paying 450,000 euros (£356,000, $505,000) so she could run in the 2012 London Olympics.
This they say was four months before the documentary was broadcast whereas Coe had told the Committee: “I was certainly not aware of the specific allegations that had been made around the corruption of anti-doping processes in Russia.”
Collins told the BBC that it was time for Coe to clarify the situation.
“If he won’t be drawn on the past and what he knew and can’t come up with a compelling argument for the way he conducted himself, then I don’t see how he could continue as president of the IAAF because he would lack the public support to do so,” said Collins.
However, the IAAF statement says Coe did pass on allegations of corruption but desisted when the IAAF Ethics Commission informed him they were already aware of them and investigations were underway.
Coe, who was an IAAF vice-president from 2007 till he was elected president in Beijing last August, admits he did not read the attachments which included the allegations by the agent over the blackmail.
“You may think this shows a lack of curiosity. He, and we, would argue that it shows a full duty of care. Ensuring the right people in the right place were aware of allegations and were investigating them.”