GENEVA: IAAF President Sebastian Coe warned Sunday that athletics faces a "long road to redemption" as allegations of blackmail and doping scams in the sport — many linked to Russia — are set to be revealed in an inquiry report.
Olympic sports will be bracing for severe damage when a World Anti-Doping Agency panel delivers findings into claims of top officials' complicity in extorting athletes and concealing drug cheats.
Longtime IAAF President Lamine Diack was last week put under criminal suspicion of corruption and money laundering by French prosecutors acting on evidence provided by the WADA-appointed inquiry team.
The 82-year-old Diack left office in August after 16 years and his successor, Coe, said he knew nothing about the allegations until being informed by French authorities.
"Clear shock, a great deal of anger and a lot of sadness," Coe told the BBC in describing his reaction to the investigation into Diack. "These are dark days for our sport but I'm more determined than ever to rebuild the trust in our sport. It's not going to be a short journey ... this is a long road to redemption."
Coe served for eight years under Diack as a vice president before replacing the Senegalese and then lauding him as the IAAF's "spiritual president."
"I'm well aware I'm going to come into some criticism for those remarks," Coe said. "Should we in hindsight have had systems in place? Should we have known more? Probably we should have done."
The doping inquiry team, which was chaired by IOC veteran Dick Pound, will present some findings at a news conference Monday in Geneva though details of the French case will not be published.
"This report is going to be a real game-changer for sport," said Richard McLaren, a Canadian lawyer who sits on Pound's three-member panel.
"This is a whole different scale of corruption than the FIFA scandal or the IOC scandal in respect to Salt Lake City," McLaren said in comments published by Western University in Canada, where he is a professor of law.
Russia will be targeted by the report just over two years since Moscow hosted the 2013 track and field world championships, and less than two years since the Sochi Winter Games.
Asked Sunday about countries being thrown out of the sport, Coe backed "engagement rather than isolation if we want change."
Coe had previously described the media's coverage of doping allegations as a "declaration of war."
WADA formed the independent inquiry after German broadcaster ARD aired a documentary — "Top secret doping: How Russia makes its winners?" — last December. It alleged systematic doping across athletics and other summer and winter Olympic sports.
The program implicated officials in Russia's athletics federation, anti-doping agency (RUSADA) and WADA-accredited laboratory in Moscow in acts of bribery to hush up positive doping tests, falsify tests and supply banned drugs.
ARD alleged that former Chicago Marathon winner Liliya Shobukhova paid 450,000 euros ($520,000) to Russian officials linked to then-IAAF treasurer Valentin Balakhnichev, who threatened her with a doping ban before the London Games.
When Shobukhova was banned for two years in 2014, her husband received a 300,000 euro ($345,000) refund payment linked to Balakhnichev, the program said.
McLaren suggested the allegations are more serious than FIFA bribery cases which did not affect the outcome of World Cup matches.
"Unlike FIFA where you have a bunch of old men who put a whole lot of extra money in their pockets, here you potentially have a bunch of old men who put a whole lot of extra money in their pockets — through extortion and bribes — but also caused significant changes to actual results and final standings of international athletics competitions," McLaren said.
In the French case, Diack's legal adviser at the IAAF, Habib Cisse, and the former head of the IAAF's anti-doping program, Gabriel Dolle, were also detained and charged with corruption.
Diack's son Papa Massata Diack, who was an IAAF marketing consultant, skipped a meeting with French prosecutors who told The Associated Press on Friday he is thought to have played a "very active" role in the alleged corruption worth more than 1 million euros ($1.1 million).
The IAAF's ethics commission is also investigating the claims, and started its secret prosecution before the ARD program aired. It has scheduled hearings in London next month though it is unclear who will attend.
The WADA inquiry was asked to find violations of the World Anti-Doping Code by athletes, coaches, doctors, trainers and laboratories that could lead to sanctions against individuals or organizations.
The Moscow lab oversaw testing for the 2014 Sochi Olympics and is scheduled to lead the anti-doping program for FIFA when Russia hosts the 2018 World Cup.
Pound's panel will deliver an interim report Monday while it continues to investigate allegations of widespread blood doping from 2001 to 2012 based on a second ARD documentary in August.
"This is not something we can absolve ourselves from — this is a very bad moment for our sport," Coe said.
"We need a generation of athletes and coaches to believe it's absolutely possible to reach the pinnacle of the sport with integrity as clean athletes."