PARIS (AP):With his federation embattled by widespread doping allegations that could lead to a reshuffle of Olympic and World Championship podiums for more than a decade, International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) president Lamine Diack defended his organisation’s anti-doping record and dismissed the accusations as a “joke” yesterday.Diack, who will be stepping down later this month after 15 years at the helm of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), also questioned the timing of the reports, which came out three weeks before the track and field World Championships in Beijing, which run from August 22-30.”They are playing with the idea of a redistribution of medals,” Diack said at the International Olympic Committee (IOC) meeting in Kuala Lumpur. “It’s possible, if we prove with the new techniques at our disposal that someone doped. Otherwise, it’s a joke. Just three weeks before the World Championships, there is something behind.”Thousands of filesDiack spoke after German broadcasting outlet ARD and the Sunday Times newspaper in Britain said they obtained access to the results of 12,000 blood tests involving 5,000 athletes. The leaked files came from the database of the IAAF.The report found that 146 medals – including 55 golds – in disciplines ranging from the 800 metres to the marathon at the Olympics and World Championships were won by athletes who have recorded suspicious tests.The Sunday Times said that 10 medals at the 2012 London Olympics were won by athletes with suspicious results, and that in some finals, every athlete in the medal positions had recorded a dubious blood test.”There is a film and a newspaper who are asking questions,” said Diack. “We are going to answer them all, but it’s not (just) because someone has a suspicious profile once that he was doped. When people say that there are medals to be redistributed from 2001 to 2012, it’s just a farce.”The IOC has previously stripped medals from athletes who have been retroactively found guilty of doping offenses dating back to the time of the Games. The IOC also stores Olympic doping samples for 10 years for possible retesting.IOC president Thomas Bach said it is up to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to investigate the allegations, including that one-third of medals in endurance races at the Olympics and World Championships from 2001 to 2012 were won by athletes who recorded suspicious blood tests.”If there should be cases involving results at Olympic Games, the IOC will react with zero tolerance with our usual policy,” Bach said. “But at this time, we have nothing more than allegations. We have to respect the presumption of innocence of the athletes.”Diack, who also suggested that the allegations were timed to overshadow the IAAF presidential election on August 19 that will pit Sebastian Coe against Sergei Bubka, did not specify which countries could be interested in a redistribution of medals.His comments appeared to leave former WADA President Dick Pound perplexed.”I’m not sure what he meant. Whether he’s worried about it’s too long, too late to do some of those, or who knows,” said Pound, who is heading a WADA commission investigating earlier allegations of widespread doping and cover-ups in Russia, particularly in track and field.Anti-doping scientist Robin Parisotto, who reviewed the data obtained by the media outlets from the period covering 2001 to 2012 with blood doping expert Michael Ashenden, has been critical of the IAAF, saying many athletes appeared to have doped with impunity.Diack denied any wrongdoing by his federation, claiming that the IAAF “has done everything for doping control” over that specific period.”No one has been destabilised; we are stronger than that,” he said. “Everything that has been done in the fight against doping has been made by IAAF.”The reports also alleged that more than 80 of Russia’s medals were won by athletes with suspicious tests, while Kenya had 18 medals won by suspicious athletes. ARD said it has evidence of human growth hormones being used by Russian runners.The Russian athletics federation said it was “disturbed by the seriousness of the allegations”.
The 27-year-old attacking midfielder is fresh from winning the FA Cup with Chelsea, scoring the only goal in the final against Manchester United.Hazard at his best could be the tournament’s standout player, and on Monday he will take to the field at Sochi’s Fisht Stadium, the same venue where Cristiano Ronaldo scored a stunning hat-trick for Portugal against Spain on Friday.“I think Eden is in a great moment of his career, look at his age, he is the captain, in terms of leadership — he never finds it difficult to show for the ball,” said Martinez on the eve of the game.“In his one v one situations he is as good as anyone in the world.”Hazard is surrounded by outstanding attacking talents, from Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne to Napoli’s Dries Mertens and Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku.Such a concentration of quality explains why they are so strongly fancied in a group also containing England.“You cannot compare one player to another, but I just feel now we have players in great moments of their careers and they are ready to make a real mark in the World Cup. Kevin De Bruyne is in exactly the same moment,” added Martinez.The Spaniard, whose press conferences are conducted entirely in English, is perhaps exactly what is required by a Belgian side who have in the past been handicapped by divisions between Flemish and French-speaking groups in the squad.Such is the quality at his disposal that he felt able to leave Roma midfielder Radja Nainggolan out altogether, but Belgium need to improve on their underwhelming performances at the last World Cup and at Euro 2016, when they never really found their best form.“We are privileged to have this group of players, not just with their skills — it is more their attitude, and the way that they are ambassadors for Belgian football,” said Martinez.– Panama into the unknown –Panama training in Sochi on Sunday © AFP / Adrian DENNISGoalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is one of the many survivors from four years ago, and he admitted that past experience can be invaluable.Belgium now know what to expect, while Panama are entering the unknown.Their coach Hernan Dario Gomez described Belgium as having “the best players in the world, except for Messi and Cristiano.”He sees them as candidates to win the title, although perhaps Iceland’s achievement in holding Lionel Messi’s Argentina to a draw on Saturday signalled the way for their fellow World Cup debutants.“Iceland qualified ahead of Croatia and did well in the Euros as well, and they were coming up against an Argentina side who are not on the same level as Belgium just now.“There is a bigger gulf between Belgium and Panama. Nobody denies they are the favourites, but if we have a good day we can get something.”The heat and humidity here in southern Russia could help them, and Martinez is not underestimating the Central Americans.“We respect immensely Panama, they are one of the stories of the World Cup,” said Martinez, who is without injured defenders Vincent Kompany and Thomas Vermaelen.0Shares0000(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today) 0Shares0000Will Eden Hazard deliver for Belgium? © AFP / Adrian DENNISSOCHI, Russian Federation, Jun 17 – Belgium coach Roberto Martinez believes Eden Hazard can be one of the stars of the World Cup as the Chelsea man prepares to lead his nation into their tournament opener against Panama.Hazard is the captain of a supremely talented Red Devils side who are determined to improve on runs to the quarter-finals at each of the last two major tournaments.