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Vladimir Putin may have consulted on Russia track and field doping, report says

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MUNICH (AP) — IAAF leaders must have been aware of the full scale of doping in Russia but did nothing to stop it, and the track and field organization itself was riddled by corruption, a report by a World Anti-Doping Agency panel said Thursday.

The full report is here.

“It is increasingly clear that far more IAAF staff knew about the problems than has currently been acknowledged,” said the report, written by former WADA president Dick Pound and presented at a news conference in Munich.

“It is not credible that elected officials were unaware of the situation affecting … athletics in Russia. If, therefore, the circle of knowledge was so extensive why was nothing done? Quite obviously there was no appetite on the part of the IAAF to challenge Russia.”

The report added: “The corruption was embedded in the organization. It cannot be ignored or dismissed as attributable to the odd renegade acting on its own.”

Pound’s commission found that former IAAF president Lamine Diack “was responsible for organizing and enabling the conspiracy and corruption” that took place.

Diack “sanctioned and appears to have had personal knowledge of the fraud and the extortion of athletes,” the report said.

The WADA panel laid considerable blame at the feet of the IAAF Council, the overseeing body that included the current president of the IAAF, Sebastian Coe.

Pound’s report said council members “could not have been unaware of the level of nepotism that operated within the IAAF,” and also “could not have been unaware of the extent of doping.”

Coe was in the audience as Pound presented his findings. He listened as Pound rattled off some grim conclusions about the IAAF, including that it remains, he said, an organization in denial.

But Pound backed Coe to stay at the helm of the IAAF, saying he was the best man to lead the organization out of the crisis and restore its credibility.

“As far as the ability of Lord Coe to remain as head of the IAAF, I think it’s a fabulous opportunity for the IAAF to seize this opportunity and under strong leadership to move forward,” Pound said. “There’s enormous amount of reputational recovery that has to occur here and I can’t … think of anyone better than Lord Coe to lead that.”

The report also details a relationship between Diack and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

With cases against nine Russian athletes unresolved and the 2013 world championships looming, the report says Diack explained to a lawyer that he is in a “difficult position that could only be resolved by President Putin of Russia with whom he had struck up a friendship.”

Pound said the IAAF should not be disbanded. He said he doesn’t believe the federation’s problems are as grave as those that have brought down the leadership of soccer governing body FIFA.

When Coe took over the presidency in August, he was lavish in his praise of Diack, who led the IAAF for 16 years. The allegations that have since emerged became an increasing source of embarrassment to Coe.

But Pound said he believes Coe had “not the faintest idea of the extent” of Diack’s alleged corruption when he took power.

Diack was taken into custody by French authorities in November on corruption and money-laundering charges, suspected of taking more than 1 million euros ($1.1 million) to blackmail athletes and cover up positive tests.

His son, Papa Massata Diack, who worked as an IAAF marketing consultant, was banned from the sport for life in a ruling last week by the IAAF ethics commission. Two Russian officials were also banned for life for engaging in blackmail, bribery and extortion to cover up a doping case involving Russian marathoner Liliya Shobuhkova.

A fourth official, former IAAF anti-doping director Gabriel Dolle, received a five-year ban.

Pound’s first report, issued in November, detailed a state-sponsored doping program in Russia involving corruption and cover-ups. That led the IAAF to suspend Russia’s track and field federation, leaving its athletes in danger of missing this year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

The new report said Lamine Diack essentially ran the IAAF as his own fiefdom, with “a close inner circle” that functioned “as an illegitimate governance structure,” including when it came to Russian doping. The inner circle included Diack’s son and his personal lawyer, Habib Cisse, who functioned as a “powerful rogue group.”

Richard McLaren, a member of the commission, said Diack’s inner circle may also have corrupted the process of selecting and not selecting cities for IAAF world championships and sponsorship deals. He recommended that more investigation was needed on those suspicions.

The investigators suspect athletes from other countries may also have been blackmailed and they may only have so far examined “the tip of the iceberg” of efforts to extort athletes, McLaren said.

The report came two days after the AP released details from six years of IAAF internal emails, reports and notes showing a high level of communication between the athletics federation and Russian officials about suspicious test results from the nation’s athletes, including plans to cover up some doping evidence.

MORE: IAAF officials explored covering up Russia bans

Johnny Gregorek runs fastest blue jeans mile in history

Johnny Gregorek
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Johnny Gregorek, a U.S. Olympic hopeful runner, clocked what is believed to be the fastest mile in history for somebody wearing jeans.

Gregorek recorded a reported 4 minutes, 6.25 seconds, on Saturday to break the record by more than five seconds (with a pacer for the first two-plus laps). Gregorek, after the record run streamed live on his Instagram, said he wore a pair of 100 percent cotton Levi’s.

Gregorek, the 28-year-old son of a 1980 and 1984 U.S. Olympic steeplechaser, finished 10th in the 2017 World Championships 1500m. He was sixth at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials.

He ranked No. 1 in the country for the indoor mile in 2019, clocking 3:49.98. His outdoor mile personal best is 3:52.94, ranking him 30th in American history.

Before the attempt, a fundraiser was started for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, garnering more than $29,000. Gregorek ran in memory of younger brother Patrick, who died suddenly in March 2019.

“Paddy was a fan of anything silly,” Gregorek posted. “I think an all out mile in jeans would tickle him sufficiently!”

MORE: Seb Coe: Track and field needs more U.S. meets

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U.S. Open mulls no fans, group flights, coronavirus tests as decision looms

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Charter flights to ferry U.S. Open tennis players and limited entourages from Europe, South America and the Middle East to New York. Negative COVID-19 tests before traveling. Centralized housing. Daily temperature checks.

No spectators. Fewer on-court officials. No locker-room access on practice days.

All are among the scenarios being considered for the 2020 U.S. Open — if it is held at all amid the coronavirus pandemic — and described to The Associated Press by a high-ranking official at the Grand Slam tournament.

“All of this is still fluid,” Stacey Allaster, the U.S. Tennis Association’s chief executive for professional tennis, said in a telephone interview Saturday. “We have made no decisions at all.”

With that caveat, Allaster added that if the USTA board does decide to go forward with the Open, she expects it to be held at its usual site and in its usual spot on the calendar. The main draw is scheduled to start Aug. 31.

“We continue to be, I would say, 150% focused on staging a safe environment for conducting a U.S. Open at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York on our dates. It’s all I wake up — our team wakes up — thinking about,” Allaster said. “The idea of an alternative venue, an alternative date … we’ve got a responsibility to explore it, but it doesn’t have a lot of momentum.”

An announcement should come from “mid-June to end of June,” Allaster said.

All sanctioned competition has been suspended by the ATP, WTA and International Tennis Federation since March and is on hold until late July.

The French Open was postponed from May to September; Wimbledon was canceled for the first time since 1945.

There is no established COVID-19 protocol for tennis, a global sport with several governing bodies.

“Everybody would agree to the fundamental principles, I’m sure: protecting the health of participants, following the local laws and minimizing the risk of the transmission of the virus,” said Stuart Miller, who is overseeing the ITF’s return-to-tennis policy. “But then you have to get down into the specific details.”

One such detail: The USTA wants to add locker rooms — including at indoor courts that housed hundreds of temporary hospital beds at the height of New York’s coronavirus outbreak — and improve air filtration in existing spaces. Also being considered: no locker-room access until just before a match. So if anyone goes to Flushing Meadows just to train, Allaster said, “You come, you practice, and return to the hotel.”

The USTA presented its operational plan to a medical advisory group Friday; now that will be discussed with city, state and federal government officials.

MORE: Olympic tennis: Key questions for Tokyo Games in 2021

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