IAAF Ethics Board clears Coe of wrongdoing

The Ethics Board of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has today (Thursday) closed an investigation into the conduct of president Sebastian Coe after ruling he was not guilty of making misleading statements concerning doping in the sport to a British parliamentary hearing.

The Ethics Board opened a probe into the matter in September 2018 after a new report was issued by the UK government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in March of that year.

Coe appeared before the DCMS committee in December 2015, shortly after he replaced the now disgraced Lamine Diack as IAAF president. Coe previously served as vice-president of the IAAF, and the DCMS had suggested he could have acted sooner to help clean up athletics, criticising him for the nature of his responses to questions over how much he knew about the problem before it was exposed by the media.

The scandal came to light in December 2014, but Dave Bedford, a former London Marathon director, is alleged to have contacted Coe in August 2014 to tell him about Russian marathon runner Liliya Shobukhova being extorted to have a positive doping test covered up by IAAF officials so she could compete in the 2012 Olympic Games.

“(Coe’s) answers to us about this were misleading,” the March 2018 committee report read. “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.”

In a statement released today, the IAAF Ethics Board detailed that Coe explained his PA had not read to him attachments on a key email he received on the matter, with the PA backing this version of events. The Ethics Board also said there was no evidence he could have been aware of the details of the Shobukhova case from another source.

The Ethics Board added: “The investigation found, by way of background, that as one of four vice-presidents of the IAAF at the time (an honorary position), Lord Coe did not have executive powers or responsibilities.

“Moreover, Lord Coe behaved appropriately in referring the matter to the Ethics Board which had been specifically established to investigate allegations of possible unethical behaviour outside the framework of the IAAF, and which Lord Coe had played an important part in setting up.

“The investigation has therefore not identified evidence of a potential breach of the Code of Ethics by Lord Coe. The investigator concluded that there is no realistic prospect of establishing that Lord Coe knew more about the Shobukhova affair at the relevant time than that Liliya Shobukhova had made a complaint, and that the complaint was serious.

“As such, the investigator concluded that there is no evidence such that there is any realistic prospect that any disciplinary case could be established that Lord Coe intentionally misled the Parliamentary Committee and accordingly the investigator recommended against disciplinary charges being laid.”

However, the DCMS chair, Damian Collins, said the committee maintains the findings of its report. “Lord Coe either knew more than he suggested he did when he gave evidence to the committee, or he knew enough about the Shobukhova to have asked more questions about it within the IAAF at the time,” Collins said, according to the BBC. “The committee stands by the conclusions of its 2018 report.”