Russian Athletes 'Put in Danger' by Doping Practices, Leaked IAAF Letter Reveals

Valentin Balakhnichev, the former ARAF President, attends a press conference for the opening of the IAAF World Race Walking Cup May 9, 2008, in Cheboksary, Russia. In 2009, Balakhnichev received an IAAF letter notifying him of suspicious blood values among Russian athletes. Oleg Nikishin/Epsilon/Getty Images

Russian athletes' doping practices were so severe that the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) feared they could die, leaked correspondence from 2009 reveals.

The Associated Press has published a letter dated October 14, 2009 from Pierre Weiss, who has been the IAAF's general secretary since 2006, notifying Valentin Balakhnichev, then President of the All-Russia Athletics Federation (ARAF), of "startling" blood test results among the Russian athletes who competed at the 2009 Athletics World Championships in Berlin and the 2009 World Half Marathon Championships in Birmingham, England.

Balakhnichev was banned from the sport for life last week, along with Papa Massata Diack—the son of former IAAF president Lamine Diack—and IAAF treasurer Alexei Melnikov, for their parts in attempting to extort money from Russian marathon runner Liliya Shobukhova in return for covering up irregularities in her biological passport.

"Of the top 10 blood values recorded in Berlin, eight of them came from Russian athletes and many more than just these eight were also very suspicious," the letter reads.

"In addition (and now not surprisingly) the blood values of the Russian athletes in Birmingham were also high, with three of the five athletes tested recording very suspicious values.

"These results are startling because not only are these athletes cheating their fellow competitors but at these levels are putting their health and even their own lives in very serious danger."

The revelation that the IAAF was aware of the potential scale of Russian doping as far back as 2009 is another blow to the organization, the day before the publication of the World Anti-Doping Agency's second report from its investigation into alleged IAAF corruption and Russian doping.

The first part of the report, published in November 2015, led to the indefinite suspension of Russia from athletic competition.