By Mitch Phillips
MARSEILLE, France (Reuters) – Three senior athletics officials have been provisionally suspended by the IAAF’s Ethics Board pending an investigation into their alleged involvement in a suspected cover-up of Russian doping cases, the sport’s governing body said on Friday.
Nick Davies, who was chief-of-staff to International Association of Athletics Federations President Seb Coe, was suspended along with his wife Jane Boulter-Davies and IAAF medical manager Pierre-Yves Garnier.
Davies stood down from his role six months ago pending the investigation into a “potential breach of the IAAF’s code of ethics”, and at the time denied any wrongdoing.
Davies, his wife, an IAAF education official, and Garnier did not immediately respond to email requests for comment. The IAAF said it had not received a response to the suspensions from any of the trio.
The Ethics Board said the suspensions had been imposed to protect the integrity of the sport “but do not prejudice the outcome of the investigations”.
It said the case related to an email reportedly sent by former IAAF consultant Papa Massata Diack to his father and then-IAAF president Lamine Diack in July 2013. The email, reported by the French daily Le Monde, allegedly showed that the three were in receipt of, or had knowledge of, a cash payment to withhold details of attempted cover-ups of Russian doping cases.
Other emails leaked by Le Monde showed Davies had discussed with Papa Diack developing a media strategy to limit the news impact of a series of positive tests by Russian athletes ahead of 2013 the Moscow world athletics championships.
Davies said that the mail was merely “brainstorming for a media strategy” and that he had done nothing wrong.
Papa Diack has denied any involvement in bribery or corruption and says his father Lamine is also innocent. French authorities are investigating the elder Diack, who Coe replaced as IAAF president in August, on charges of corruption and money laundering.
“CASE TO ANSWER”
IAAF Ethics Board Chairman Michael Beloff said Friday’s suspensions were decided after the board determined that there was a prima facie case to answer that warranted investigation.
The Ethics Board statement said Davies, a former IAAF general secretary and head of communications, received an undisclosed cash payment in 2013 from Papa Massata Diack, “the circumstances and concealment of which call into question whether the payment was intended to have and/or in fact produced any manipulative effect.”
Boulter-Davies allegedly received, or knew about, a payment to Davies. Garnier allegedly received an undisclosed cash payment at the direction of Lamine Diack and “retained some part of the sum even when aware of its apparent impropriety”.
The Ethics Board is also investigating whether Davies and Boulter-Davies misled the Board during its previous investigation into the matter.
Reuters emailed all three IAAF staffers seeking comment on the suspensions and the allegations contained in the Ethics Board statement but did not immediately receive a response.
In December, Davies stepped aside from his role with Coe in a move he said aimed to demonstrate his willingness to have all allegations of unethical behavior by him properly and fairly investigated.
He said he had referred to the IAAF Ethics Board all of his 2013 emails to Papa Massata Diack, his statements and the circumstances of the emails.
In a separate statement, the world athletics body said the suspended trio would enjoy “the presumption of innocence until the outcome of the investigation and the determination of disciplinary charges, if any, brought against them”.
Russia is currently banned from all athletics following revelations of widespread state-sponsored doping and next Friday the IAAF Council meets in Vienna to decide whether to lift that ban and allow its track and field athletes to compete at the Rio Olympics in August.
(Editing by Martyn Herman and Jon Boyle)