Three senior IAAF officials banned for life over cover ups

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Alexei Melnikov (c) is one of those banned for life.

Three senior IAAF officials have been banned for life for blackmailing athletes and covering up positive drugs tests.

Papa Massata Diack, the son of the then IAAF president Lamine Diack, Valentin Balakhnichev, former Russian athletic federation (ARAF) president and IAAF treasurer Alexei Melnikov, a senior ARAF coach, have all been handed lifetime bans.

Gabriel Dolle, who was the IAAF's anti-doping director, has been given a five-year ban for his part in the doping scandal which has rocked world athletics.

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The findings by the IAAF's ethics commission lay bare the corruption involving the senior figures in athletics, with the trio found to have blackmailed Russian runner Liliya Shobukhova, London marathon winner in 2010, and made her pay a bribe for a positive drugs test to be covered up.

Lamine Diack, who was succeeded as president by Lord Coe in August, is himself under investigation by French police on suspicion of taking more than one million euros (£746,000) to cover up positive tests.

The ethics commission's findings state: "The head of a national federation, the senior coach of a major national team and a marketing consultant for the IAAF conspired together (and, it may yet be proven with others too) to conceal for more than three years anti-doping violations by an athlete at what appeared to be the highest pinnacle of her sport.

"All three compounded the vice of what they did by conspiring to extort what were in substance bribes from Liliya Shobukhova by acts of blackmail.

"They acted dishonestly and corruptly and did unprecedented damage to the sport of track and field which, by their actions, they have brought into serious disrepute."

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Vohra's View: Only a marathon effort will break two hours

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Record holder: Dennis Kimetto.

Would the knife edge of excitement be lost in sport if the endeavour of mankind (and women) could do no better? Are we now approaching that point where this is it, we do not have it in us, the limit has been reached.

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There will come an Olympiad in our times where no record will be broken. Let’s take the 100 metre sprint for the title of fastest man in the world. Will it ever reach nine seconds flat leave alone go below that?

And how long will it be before the 9.5 seconds mark is broken and will there come a man so fleet of foot that he makes Usain Bolt look slow? Nine tenths of a second to go for that goal which gives you an idea of how agonisingly tough it is to shave even a fraction of a fraction.

Against the backdrop of such sobering thoughts the one high profile record that might be in danger of being broken is the two-hour mark in the marathon.

With Dennis Kimetto clocking 2:2.57 at Berlin in 2014 you would think that it’s not a big deal to knock off 180 seconds from a harvest of a little over 7,200 seconds. Put in perspective it is pretty staggering and tantalisingly out of reach.

Pheidippides ran the original marathon to Sparta and back to Athens, a distance of 25 miles after the Battle of Marathon. This length was stretched to the odd distance of 26 miles and 365 yards in 1908 when at the London Olympics the organisers thought it fitting for the race to end opposite the Royal Boxthat being the distance from Windsor Castle where it began. That race was won by Johnny Hayes of the USA in two hours, 55 minutes and 18 seconds.

It is remarkable indeed that in this ultimate test of endurance 53 minutes have been reduced even if it took a century to achieve it. It was in 1921 that the distance set in London was made official for all marathons.

Today, with over 5000 marathons a year, 500 of them listed and thirty seen as the blue ribbon runs there are hundreds of thousands of amateurs and professionals bookended by a three-year-old and a hundred-year-old contestant.

The marathon is the one race that changes terrain by venue. Hence the timing is predicated to the ‘climb’ factor and even the wind. Even though we are so close to the two-hour mark experts believe it will be some time before it is cracked. Look at the pattern of the timings over the years.

In 1960 Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia clocked 2:12:12. In 55 years not much more than nine minutes have been cut which mathematically suggests at least another decade before the last three minutes are conquered. And the progress has slowed considerably.

In this century for example the differential from the 2002 Khalid Khannouchi run of 2:05:38 through Haile Gebrselassie’s 2008 run of 2:03:59 in 2008 until we got to Kenyan Wilson Kipsang’s record in 2011 also at Berlin when he hit 2:03:23 has shown less than a three-minute carving and that also without consistency.

Most top level runs are in the four to five minutes after the two-hour category. That said, Dennis did lop off 26 seconds from his compatriot three years later but it was such an incredible feat in the marathon world that it is still spoken about in hushed tones.

From that vantage the two-hour barrier looks formidable and it will require a miracle to break through it. Wonder how the Battle of Marathon 2,500 years ago would have turned out if Pheidippides could have got back to Athens an hour earlier.

“To Acropolis! Run, Pheidippides, one race more! The meed is thy due! Athens is saved, thank Pan, go shout!”

Truth be told …there is always one race more.

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2012 winner Ayele Abshero returns to DXB

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Abshero (l) winning in 2012.

Four years after storming on to the world marathon scene with a new course record in Dubai, Ethiopia’s Ayele Abshero will return to the scene of his greatest triumph when he lines up at the 2016 Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon on January 22.

In 2012, the 21-year-old marathon rookie stunned a world-class field by clocking an astonishing time of 2h:04m:23s to win on his debut at the 42.195km distance. 

Not only was it a course record for Dubai, it was also the fastest marathon debut ever and, at the time, the fourth fastest marathon time in history.

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Since then Abshero has competed all over the world – adding third and fourth place finishes at the London Marathon to his running CV – and will make his long-awaited return to Dubai in 2016.

“Ayele’s victory and course record was a highlight in what was an amazing year for the Dubai Marathon in 2012,” said event director Peter Connerton. 

“Never before in marathon history had more than three men broken 2:05 on a legal course yet that year four men broke that mark here in Dubai. We bettered that in 2013 when five men ran sub-2:05 but Ayele’s race – and the fastest marathon debut ever – are certainly among the race’s historical highlights.”

Now 25, Abshero began running in order to follow in the footsteps of his older brother Tessera and enjoyed his first opportunity representing Ethiopia by finishing second in the junior event at the 2008 IAAF World Cross Country Championships. A year later he claimed gold in the same event in Jordan. 

After a few years competing on the track, he made his move to the marathon distance and that stunning debut in Dubai. Since then he has enjoyed those two strong finishes in London, a sixth place at the Chicago Marathon in 2013 and victory at the Egmond Half Marathon in 2014 in Holland.

This year, Abshero warmed up for the Dubai event with third place at the recent Gyeongju Marathon in Korea.

“As well as 2012 champion Ayele Abshero joining two-time London Marathon winner Tsegaye Kebede in the men’s line-up, we have several other world-class athletes vying for positions at the start,” added General Co-ordinator, IAAF council member and UAE Athletics Federation president Ahmed Al Kamali.

“Numbers are once again very strong across the three race categories and we expect around 30,000 runners of all ages, nationalities and abilities to be join us for what will once again be one of the city’s biggest sporting events of the year.” 

Runners who have yet to register for the Marathon, the 10km event and the 4km Fun Run can sign up through the official website www.dubaimarathon.org. In addition to Standard Chartered as title sponsor, the Dubai Marathon is supported by the Dubai Sports Council, adidas, Dubai Eye 103.8FM, Dubai Holding, Dubai Police and the RTA.

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