THE BIG PICTURE: Diack investigation might be moving along after all

Lamine Diack (SEN), former IAAF president and IOC member, who is expected to stand trial on corruption charges in France in 2019

We noted on Tuesday that the investigation by French authorities into the influence-buying and doping cover-up involving former International Olympic Committee member and IAAF President Lamine Diack (SEN) was continuing without end.

But there were new developments this week, as Agence France Presse reported that arrest warrants had been issues for former IAAF Treasurer Valentin Balakhnichev (RUS) and former Russian national track & field team coach Alexei Melnikov.

The Russian TASS news agency reported that no requests for extradition had yet been received, but Balakhnichev said, “I cannot comment on the case as I’m not in the know about what they are blaming me for.”

The former treasurer was banned by the IAAF for life in 2016, and the ban was confirmed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in 2017.

Against this backdrop, the Around the Rings Web site reported this week that the inquiry into the Diack case has been completed and that the findings will be taken to a judge, who could approve the matter going to trial.

The Diack matter in France is also impacting the trial of Carlos Nuzman, the former IOC member who was the head of the Brazilian Olympic Committee and the Rio 2016 organizing committee. Nuzman is accused of being in the middle of a vote-buying scheme to help Rio land the 2016 Games back in 2009; he has maintained his innocence.

For both the IOC and the IAAF, the Diack matter can’t come to closure soon enough. The outcome has the potential to taint the election of Rio to host the 2016 Games and Tokyo to host in 2020, and cast shame on those bribed by Diack.

For the IAAF, its activities during Diack’s term as president from 1999-2015 will come under significant suspicion, especially in the area of doping cover-ups, along with fraud or theft of sponsorship and television rights payments.

How much damage will be done will depend, to some extent, on the revelations at trial, the documentation available and the timing. The longer the process takes, the closer it comes to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. And, of course, France will host in 2024.

The German-Austrian inquest into doping coordinated by German physician Mark Schmidt continues to produce results, as the German prosecutor confirmed additional arrests.

Austrian authorities made a sensational raid and arrested five athletes during the FIS World Nordic Skiing World Championships in Seefeld (AUT) last month, but German police arrested Schmidt and five accomplices in Erfurt (GER).

On Wednesday, the German prosecutor, Kai Gaeber, told reporters that a total of 21 athletes – from three winter sports and two summer sports – were suspected of doping. “The timeframe is from the end of 2011 to 2019 in Seefeld.

“There are three-figure cases of blood being taken out and then being reintroduced worldwide: in Germany, Austria, Italy, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Croatia, Slovenia and Hawaii.”

The Seefeld arrests were of cross-country skiers from Austria, Estonia and Kazakhstan, and Austrian cyclist Georg Preidler also confessed to being involved in doping. The investigation is continuing.