Leaked Doping Email Sparks a New Scandal for the IAAF

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) headquarters in Monaco on November 4. World athletics' governing body is facing fresh troubles after the resignation of Nick Davies, its deputy general secretary. Eric Gaillard/Reuters

Nick Davies, deputy general secretary of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), has temporarily stepped down from his post pending an ethics inquiry into a leaked email suggesting that the world athletics' governing body attempted to limit the release of information involving Russian doping cases in 2013.

The email, seen by Le Monde and published on Monday, was sent by Davies, who was then IAAF press secretary, to Papa Massata Diack, the son of disgraced ex-IAAF president Lamine Diack. It was dated July 19, 2013, not long before the Athletics World Championships in Moscow and just weeks after an explosive Mail on Sunday report alleging that Russian coaches had been encouraging their athletes to dope.

"This must stay absolutely secret," the email begins. "I need to sit down with the anti-doping department to find out exactly who are these Russian 'corpses' that are still in the cupboard, in relation to doping." It then goes on to describe the need to launch an "unofficial PR campaign to ensure that we avoid international media scandals, especially in the British press."

The email has the potential to cause further trouble for Sebastian Coe, the embattled British IAAF president, who promoted Davies to his current position in September.

"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 said in a statement on Wednesday.

Davies, who was promoted to his current position in August, when Coe succeeded Lamine Diack to become IAAF president, admits in the email that "these athletes should not take part in the World Championships."

But it is the suggestion that the body did its utmost to limit the release of information that will cause most embarrassment to Coe. The IAAF president is desperately trying to rebuild the reputation of the sport after Russia was indefinitely suspended from all international athletics competitions in response to a World Anti-Doping Agency report published November 9 that alleged a "deeply rooted culture of cheating" in the country.

"We could prepare a document on all the doping tests conducted by the IAAF," Davies writes in the email, "which will show that one of the reasons why so many Russians are testing positive is because they are tested so much!"

Potentially adding to Coe's woes is Davies' suggestion that the IAAF "use Chime Sports Marketing (CSM)," the marketing company of which Coe is still executive chairman, "to make sure we avoid international media scandals linked to the Moscow [World] Championships.

"We can also profit from Seb's political influence in the United Kingdom. It's in his personal interest to ensure that the Moscow World Championships are a success.

"We should work very hard to stop every attack mounted by the British press towards Russia in the weeks to come."

In a statement the BBC published on Wednesday, Davies said: " As director of IAAF communications, it was one of my responsibilities to manage and promote the reputation of the IAAF … My email to the IAAF's then-marketing consultant Papa Massata Diack, less than a month before the start of the Moscow World Championship, was brainstorming around media handling strategies to deal with the serious challenges we were facing."

Insisting that nothing actually came of the suggestions in his email, Coe said, "There is no possibility any media strategy could ever interfere with the conduct of the anti-doping process. He also did his best to distance his boss f rom the scandal. "I did not discuss these ideas with CSM and there has never been any agreement between the IAAF and CSM for any PR campaigns," he said. "CSM has never worked for the IAAF in any capacity since Sebastian Coe joined the company."