Arbitration court upholds doping blackmail ban

ZURICH, (Reuters) – Sports highest tribunal has upheld life bans on two top Russian athletics officials and the son of former world governing body president Lamine Diack for covering up an elite Russian athlete’s positive dope test and blackmailing her over it.

Valentin Balakhnichev, the former head of the Russian athletics federation, and Alexei Melnikov, the country’s former head distance coach, were banned by the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) ethics commission in January last year.

Papa Massata Diack, a former marketing consultant to the IAAF, was also banned. All three denied any wrongdoing and subsequently appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

“The IAAF Ethics Commission decision is confirmed and Valentin Balakhnichev, Alexei Melnikov and Papa Massata Diack remain banned for life from any involvement in the sport of athletics,” said CAS in announcing its verdict on Monday. “The panel concluded that on the evidence adduced, the charges established against Messers Balakhnichev, Melnikov and Diack were established beyond reasonable doubt and the sanctions imposed should be upheld.” It said it would give a full reasoned decision at a later date.

The bans followed the previous year’s World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) independent commission report that found a state-sponsored culture of doping in Russia and prompted the country’s suspension from the sport.

The sanctions related primarily to the case of Russian former London marathon winner Liliya Shobukhova, who paid $600,000 to have positive dope tests covered up.

Russia remains banned from athletics although its athletes can apply to compete as neutrals if they meet stringent criteria set by the IAAF. Nineteen Russian athletes competed as neutrals at this month’s World Championships in London.

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