IAAF official steps aside amidst Russian doping cover-up row

Story highlights

  • IAAF Deputy General Secretary says stepping side will help Ethics Board assess his case
  • Davies denies any secret plan to cover up positive tests by Russian athletes
  • Leaked email shows Davies discussing Russian doping in 2013

(CNN)A top-level figure at the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has stepped aside amid an allegation he formulated a secret plan to delay the naming of Russian drug cheats ahead of the organization's flagship competition.

Earlier this week, an email sent by Nick Davies, the IAAF Deputy General Secretary, in July 2013 -- in which he discussed "what Russian 'skeletons' we still have in the cupboard regarding doping" -- was published by French newspaper Le Monde.
The mail to Papa Massata Diack, the son of former IAAF President Lamine Diack, was sent less than a month before that year's IAAF World Championships in Moscow.
    Davies, the IAAF's Director of Communications at the time but who has since been promoted, had already strongly denied any wrongdoing prior to relinquishing his position late on Tuesday.
    "To demonstrate that I am willing to have all allegations of unethical behavior 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," he said in a statement sent to CNN.
    "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.
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    "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 (World Anti-Doping Agency) WADA - all of whom I have voluntarily offered full assistance to and will continue to do so."
    Within Davies' 2013 mail, a potential date for when to release the failed doping tests by various Russian athletes was discussed with Papa Diack, then the Monaco-based organization's Marketing Consultant.
    In the first of two statements sent to CNN on Tuesday, Davies had said he was just "brain storming around media handling strategies to deal with the serious challenges we were facing around the image of the event."
    "No plan was implemented following that email and there is no possibility any media strategy could ever interfere with the conduct of the anti-doping process," the Englishman added.
    Prior to the Russian capital's hosting of the World Championships in August 2013, athletics had been rocked by a series of doping revelations.
    Russia itself had barred nearly 40 athletes in the months preceding the event while two headline sprinters -- American Tyson Gay and Jamaica's former 100m world record holder Asafa Powell -- tested positive for banned substances in July 2013.
    Despite maintaining their innocence, both men received one-year bans from the sport.
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    In the four months that followed the World Championships -- where Russia topped the medals table for only the second time since the event began in 1983 -- the IAAF suspended 16 Russians for doping.
    Last month, Russia was provisionally suspended as an IAAF member following a damning report by the World Anti-Doping Agency that the country had engaged in widespread and state-sponsored doping.
    Along with three others, Papa Diack was charged earlier this year by the IAAF with extorting money from Russian athlete Liliya Shobukhova to conceal a positive doping test, an accusation he denies. CNN was unable to reach Diack for comment.
    The quartet are set to learn their fate next month when the IAAF's Ethics Commission -- which heard the case in London last week -- is expected to announce its verdict.
    Meanwhile, Papa's father Lamine, who chaired the IAAF for 16 years before stepping down in August, is being investigated in France for corruption and money laundering charges that also relate to the potential cover-up of Russian doping cases.
    Prosecutors are investigating whether Diack senior covered up positive tests by Russians in exchange for 1m Euros ($1.09m) from the country's athletics federation.
    The 82-year-old has denied the accusations put to him by a French judge last month, prior to his release on bail.
    On Monday, financial prosecutors in Paris filed tougher charges against Diack, accusing him of 'active corruption' -- which generally involves offering something -- where he had previously been accused of 'passive corruption'.
    "I had no knowledge in 2013 that IAAF officials might be involved in alleged criminal conduct in relation to doping cases, nor am I aware of any doping case that was not brought that should have been brought, or of any doping ban that was not published when it should have been published under the IAAF Rules," Davies said in his first statement on Tuesday.