Athletics

France issue arrest warrants for former IAAF treasurer and senior coach of Russian athletics team

French judges have issued international arrest warrants for two former Russian athletics officials as part of an investigation into doping cover-ups, it was reported today.

A source named one of the men to Agence France-Presse as Valentin Balakhnichev, the former President of the All-Russia Athletics Federation (ARAF) and treasurer of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

The other was identified as Alexei Melnikov. the former senior coach of Russia’s team.

Both had been banned for life by the IAAF in January 2016 after being named in the McLaren Report, which investigated state-sponsored doping in Russia. 

Balakhnichev was President of the ARAF from 1991 until February 2015, resigning shortly before Russia was banned from international competition by the IAAF. 

The warrants are the latest development in a French probe that began in November 2015 when former IAAF President Lamine Diack was placed under formal investigation on suspicion of corruption and money laundering.

He had been accused of receiving bribes to cover up doping violations by Russian athletes.

France’s financial prosecutor has alleged that Senegalese Papa Massata Diack, Lamine Diack’s son, had been at the heart of a corruption scheme in international sports, an accusation he has denied.

Papa Massata Diack was banned for life by the IAAF in January 2016, along with Balakhnichev and Melnikov, after being charged in relation to payments totalling approximately £435,000 ($562,000/€475,000) made by Russia’s Liliya Shobukhova, the 2010 London Marathon winner and a three-time Chicago Marathon champion, in order to cover-up doping violations. 

“I am not aware of this,” the 69-year-old Balakhnichev told Russia’s official state news agency TASS.

“I don’t know how to react to these things.”

It is unlikely that French authorities will ever be able to arrest Balakhnichev or Melnikov as, like Papa Massata Diack, they are unlikely to travel anywhere the warrant can be served. 

“I am a pensioner and I don’t intend to travel abroad,” Balakhnichev told TASS. 

Papa Massata Diack is also linked to the corruption case that today led to Tsunekazu Takeda resigning as President of the Japanese Olympic Committee and International Olympic Committee.

Takeda is being investigated in France for “active corruption”. 

It concerns payments worth $2 million (£1.5 million/€1.75 million) made to Singaporean company Black Tidings before Tokyo was awarded the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics at the IOC Session in Buenos Aires in 2013.

The account holder has been closely tied to Papa Massata Diack.

 

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