Nick Davies faces investigation over attempt to cover up doping scandal

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In the spotlight: Nick Davies.

Nick Davies has announced he will step aside from his role as the director of the IAAF’s president’s office while an ethics board investigates allegations of unethical behaviour against him.

French newspaper Le Monde have obtained a copy of an email sent by Davies, the IAAF’s former director of communications and now right-hand man to president Seb Coe, in which he appears to seek to delay the identification of Russian drug cheats in the run-up to the 2013 World Championships in Moscow.

In the email sent to Papa Massata Diack – the son of former president Lamine Diack and who has rejected allegations of alleged extortion and bribery – Davies appears to look to minimise the impact of naming Russian athletics who have failed drug tests.

Coe has the tough task of cleaning up the image of athletics.

Davies has denied any wrongdoing and said in a statement: “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.”

Davies added: “In statements over recent days I have underlined that one of my key responsibilities is to manage and promote the reputation of the IAAF.

“What has become apparent today 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.”

Last week the IAAF ethics commission concluded a three-day hearing into Diack Junior, IAAF treasurer Valentin Balakhnichev, former IAAF anti-doping director Gabriel Dolle and the Russian federation’s former chief coach for long-distance athletes, Alexei Melnikov.

Coe has the tough task of cleaning up the image of athletics.

The officials faced disciplinary hearings on charges that they covered up doping offences, with all four charged with various breaches of the IAAF’s code of ethics.

Lifetime bans could be handed down, with a decision expected to be announced in early January, but Diack Junior has denied the    charges.

“There was no extortion of funds from any athlete,” he told the BBC.

“I’ve never met any athlete, any agent, any person in the world… asking to have a payment.

“I deal with corporate sponsors, I deal with governments, I deal with municipal government, I deal with Olympic committees. I never dealt with any athlete or any agent, so I reject those allegations.”

The IAAF charges involve Russian runner Liliya Shobukhova, the former London marathon winner who turned whistleblower for the World

Anti-Doping Agency earlier this year, and money she paid to have her doping violations covered up. The IAAF has banned Russia from international competition after a report by the WADA’s independent commission, headed by Dick Pound.

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Road to Rio: Qatar prepare for Olympics

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Aiming for glory: Mutaz Barshim.

With less than eight months to go to the start of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Team Qatar’s Chef de Mission Mohamed al-Fadala discusses the preparations, aspirations and hopes for the delegation as they countdown to the biggest sporting event in the world.

The Rio 2016 Olympic Games will mark the 8th time Qatar has participated in the Games, with the country's first appearance in the Games coming in 1984 in Los Angeles – only five short years since the establishment of the Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC) in 1979.

Since then, Team Qatar has grown stronger in numbers and in performances, and made history at the London 2012 Olympics by sending their first female athletes ever – they competed in swimming, table tennis, athletics and shooting.

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London 2012 also saw Team Qatar’s sporting heroes Mutaz Barshim and Nasser al-Attiyah win bronze medals in high jump and skeet shooting respectively.

Since then, Barshim and al-Attiyah have continued to dominate the international sporting scene while local Qatari athletes aspire to join them on their Olympic journey.

Commenting on building on Team Qatar’s sporting momentum, al-Fadala said: “By participating in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, the QOC hopes to show the true face of its talented athletes and the hard-working federations.

"After winning two bronze medals thanks to Mutaz and Nasser at London 2012, the ambition now is to improve on all fronts; both in terms of an increase in the number of participating athletes and Team Qatar’s performance.”

Al-Fadala, who is also the QOC’s Director of Public Relations, will serve as Chef de Mission of the Rio 2016 Delegation, and went into great detail about his responsibilities: “The Chef de Mission is essentially the acting head of the delegation taking part in the Games and as such must have a certain aptitude for communications as well as management. Additionally, the Chef de Mission must be able to juggle a multitude of responsibilities and be good at calmly and quickly solving problems.

“I act as the focal point for information for the delegation, and offer my support to fulfill the delegation’s mental, physical and social needs – all in accordance with the regulations stipulated by the IOC.

"My responsibilities therefore start from long before the Games begin, during the Games and even after they conclude, and are focused on creating the perfect environment for the athletes and the other members of the delegation so that they can carry out their duties in the best way possible – for athletes this means performing better than they ever have before.”

Qatari Junior Handball team compete in Nanjing 2013.

The Qatari athletes’ delegation heading to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games is expected to be the biggest athlete contingent in Qatar’s history and include equestrian and handball teams, as well as many serious competitors in athletics – with several more athletes expected to qualify throughout the course of next year.

“The Qatari equestrian team has developed considerably and is now ranked among the very best in the world," Al-Fadala said:

"In February 2015, Sheikh Ali bin Khalid al-Thani, Ali al-Rumaihi, Khalid al-Emadi and Bassem Hassan Mohammed competed in the Furusiyya 2015 Series in Abu Dhabi and secured their well-deserved qualifying spots for Rio.

"This is a historic achievement for Qatar and the very first time Team Qatar has qualified for this event.”

The Qatari national handball team has also seen similar success by building on an incredible performance in the 24th Men’s Handball World Championships in January 2015 – in which they finished second after a narrow defeat in the final to Olympic and World Champions France.

Team Qatar later went on to earn their Rio qualifying berth after a 28-19 victory over Iran in the Asian Qualifiers, in front of an elated home crowd.

"The handball team’s recent success in the Asian Olympic Qualifiers is a perfect example of one of the main things QOC hopes to achieve by hosting world-class events such as the Men’s Handball World Championships," al-Fadala added.

"It helps to raise the level of our athletes by allowing them to compete against the very best in the world.

"By doing so we also inspire new athletes, who for the first time ever can witness incredible sporting spectacles at close quarters, with the World Championships leaving a lasting legacy for our youth.”

Among the Rio 2016 qualified stars for the Qatari team is gravity-defying high-jumper Barshim, as well as upcoming star Ashraf Elseify.

Elseify secures second IAAF Junior World Championship title.

Elseify is a two-time Junior World Champion in the hammer throw and much like established superstar Barshim, he too graduated from Qatar’s world-class Aspire Academy for Sporting Excellence.

Al-Fadala continued: “The Aspire Academy is an integral part of Qatar’s Athlete Development Pathway and has fostered and developed some of our best home-grown sporting talents such as Barshim and ElSeify.

"QOC’s commitment to sporting excellence takes a grass-roots approach and as time progresses we are really starting to see this bear fruit and its clear that Team Qatar’s future grows brighter every year.”

The Rio 2016 Olympics will take between August 5-21 and it will be the first time the event has ever been held in South America.

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Japan decides on new, reduced Tokyo 2020 stadium design

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The site of the proposed stadium.

Japan on Tuesday chose a new, slimmed down 2020 Olympic stadium design, after an earlier version set off a row over a $2 billion price tag that would have made it the world’s most expensive sports venue.

The country’s preparations for the global games suffered a humiliating setback this year when the government pulled the plug on the original stadium plan by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid following spiralling costs and complaints over the design.

Two new plans — both by Japanese architects and with sharply lower cost estimates — were released last week by the Japan Sport Council, which is overseeing the project.

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After deliberations, the JSC chose the slightly cheaper of the two, a joint venture involving renowned architect Kengo Kuma with an estimated cost of approximately 149.0 billion yen ($1.2 billion).

“I think this is a wonderful plan that meets criteria such as basic principles, construction period and cost,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a special cabinet meeting on the design.

The winning proposal, which beat one involving Pritzker Architecture Prize-winning Japanese architect Toyo Ito, is far below the price estimated under the now-ditched design by Hadid.

Besides cost, her plan also drew complaints over aesthetics. Under the new plan, construction is to be completed in November 2019, ahead of the January 2020 deadline demanded by the International Olympic Committee.

Tokyo is due to host the opening ceremony on July 24 that year.

“I am feeling the weight of the awesome responsibility,” Kuma told private broadcaster Nippon TV right after the announcement.

The new plan aims to “create Japanese tradition” by using steel frames and wood with a concept of a “stadium of trees and green”, according to documents submitted to the JSC.

It will have a height of 49.2 metres (162 feet), lower than the original design of 70 metres, which was criticised as too high and for being a potential eyesore on Tokyo’s skyline.

The new plan, which calls for five floors above ground and two below, involves placing greenery on stadium decks to shut out Tokyo’s scorching summer sunshine. Seating capacity will be about 68,000.

The other proposal, at 54.3 metres high, also featured a traditional Japanese touch in the use of 72 wooden columns, but planned three floors above ground and two below.

Explaining his design concept after the announcement, Kuma told reporters he wanted to use wood in the stadium’s partial roof “so spectators will feel surrounded” by the natural material as they watch events.

He added that merging the stadium with the abundant greenery surrounding the venue would prove to be a “legacy” of “Japanese style” that would outlast the 2020 event.

Abe shocked Olympic organisers in July when he pulled the plug on Hadid’s futuristic design as soaring costs put it on course to become the world’s most expensive sports stadium.

Japan demanded the new designs be more than 40 percent cheaper, setting a 155 billion yen cap on construction costs.

The stadium fiasco has pushed back the new venue’s completion date, embarrassing Japanese sport officials who have also been forced to find an alternate showpiece site for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, which the country is hosting.

Following Tokyo’s decision to scrap the original design plans, former sports minister Hakubun Shimomura in September said he would step down.

The new stadium will be built on the site of the one used as the main stadium for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. The neighbourhood is surrounded by greenery including parks and Japanese Shinto shrines.

Tokyo Olympic organisers have also faced another headache after plagiarism allegations scuttled its first logo for the games and are in the process of selecting a new design after having received more than 14,500 suggestions from the public.

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