IAAF deputy general secretary Nick Davies steps down over leaked email

Sebastian Coe’s closest aide Nick Davies has stepped aside from his position at athletics’ governing body and submitting himself to an investigation by the IAAF’s ethics commission.

Davies made the decision following the publication of an email in which he discussed a secret plan to delay naming Russian athletes involved in doping before the 2013 World Championships in Moscow.

In a statement Davies, who was deputy general secretary of the International Association of Athletics Federations’, said: “What has become apparent is that I have become the story. This is not helpful at the current time, with ongoing criminal investigations by the French police, the IAAF’s Ethics Board or WADA - all of whom I have voluntarily offered full assistance to and will continue to do so.

“In order to demonstrate that I am willing to have all allegations of unethical behaviour on my part in 2013 properly and fairly investigated I have referred my emails to Papa Massata Diack in 2013, my statements and the circumstances of the emails to the IAAF Ethics Board. I have decided to step aside from my role with the IAAF until such time as the Ethics Board is able to review the matter properly and decide if I am responsible for any breach of the IAAF Code of Ethics.”

Many in the sport had suspected his position was untenable after the embarrassing leak of his email to the former IAAF marketing executive Papa Massata Diack in July 2013, in which a five-point plan to minimise the impact from Russian doping was discussed. Among Davies’ ideas was a “special dossier” to “show that one of the reasons why these Russian athletes come up positive is that they get tested a lot!!!”

Davies had sought to limit the damage by referring his email to the scrutiny of the IAAF’s ethics commission after a conversation with Coe. But the voices in the sport that suggested that it showed a serious lack of lack of judgement continued to grow. It had been sent less than a fortnight after the Mail on Sunday revealed serious corruption within Russian Athletics in July 2013 - yet instead of trying to address the story Davies appeared more concerned with shooting the messenger. As he told Papa Diack: “We will work hard to stop all attacks planned by the British press towards Russia in the coming weeks.”

Davies has denied any wrongdoing, and said he was merely exchanging ideas about possible strategies related to “serious challenges” faced around the image of the competition.

Friends of Davies continue to insist that he is a man of integrity – and that last December he confronted the then IAAF president Lamine Diack and told to suspend a number of senior figures, including his son Papa, after allegations that they had extorted bribes to cover up the suspicious blood values from the Russian marathon runner Liliya Shobukhova were broadcast. Davies’ supporters claim the email was leaked by Diack Jnr in an attempt to inflict maximum damage against Davies and, by extension, Coe himself.

Yet despite the change of regime at the IAAF, the communications department’s playbook appeared intact. On Monday night, for instance, Davies’ lawyers sent a letter to the fearless German documentary maker Hajo Seppelt warning him after he attacked Davies’ emails on Twitter. As they brusquely told him: “Should you publish any inaccurate or defamatory statements about the IAAF, Mr Davies and/or Lord Coe then we will not hesitate to take appropriate legal action”.

Seppelt retaliated by publishing the letter, which was supposed to be private, on Twitter, which exposed Davies’ overly heavy-handed approach – which not only smacked of the bad old ways, but made for terrible PR given that Seppelt has done more than anyone to expose doping in Russian athletics.

Davies would say that he was only doing his job, which was to protect the IAAF. But why was he discussing how to get around the problem of Russian doping with Papa Massata Diack, who was supposed to be marketing consultant, in the first place? And was his first instinct to protect an organisation which appears to have been corrupt – or to doing the right thing?

On another dramatic day for athletics’ governing body, French magistrates also filed tougher corruption charges against former IAAF president Lamine Diack in connection with cover-ups of Russian doping.

Diack Snr had previously been accused of “passive corruption,” on suspicion he took around €1m to cover up positive drug tests by Russian athletes. An official with the Paris financial prosecutor’s office said that Diack is now accused of “active corruption,” which generally involves offering money or other promises in exchange for violating a rule.

Diack’s son has protested his father’s innocence, telling the BBC: “He’s never been involved in any corrupt system to extort money from athletes, I totally reject that.

“Suddenly they are just going to destroy all he’s built over the last 16 years and all the 39 years he’s spent in the IAAF, so I find it very sad and I could not recognise certain acts or certain declarations made by certain people, but it’s a fact of life.”

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Sean Ingle, for The Guardian on Tuesday 22nd December 2015 18.48 Europe/London

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