Every Swim Coach Should Watch This Show



In the evening I find out in which hotel Balakhnichev will be staying – and this time it should work. So suddenly, that the camera has still not been properly set up.

Reporter: “Mr. Balakhnichev, Hajo Seppelt, German TV, I would like to ask you some questions about the doping problem in Russia.”

Valentin Balakhnichev, President of the Russian Athletics Federations: “I am not involved. It is your business you can do it yourself.”

Reporter: “Can you tell me when we can talk about it?”

Valentin Balakhnichev: “Never.”

Reporter: “You don’t want to talk about it?”

Valentin Balakhnichev: “I don’t want to talk. I am not involved. That is your vision and my vision is that I am not involved. I am the president and I am the never involved in any cases. I totally reject your questions about my involvement in this cases.”

Reporter: “That means you are not involved in the whole doping problem?”

Valentin Balakhnichev: “I am not involved. And this is very strange.”


On the way back to Berlin. Time to reach an interim conclusion: I found coach and doctors who authorize doping, athletes who admit to it, an Act of Government of the State which hinders controls, a laboratory which seems to help with the cover-up, an anti-doping agency, which apparently provides appointments for controls. And a management that does not want to talk. And then I realize, that still was not everything.


By mail I receive more documents from an anonymous informant. Blood values are enclosed, that much is clear. Measured between 2009 to 2011. Apparently from one of the best marathon runners of all time. A Russian. If blood values are atypical and cannot be explained by natural causes, usually the only remaining explanation is doping. That makes the papers so explosive.


In the Cologne control laboratory, Professor Mario Thevis judges the obviously very suspicious blood values.


Mario Thevis, doping researcher: “We are dealing here with values which came from an athlete who has been tested several times and some of the values are well outside the usual reference range and if a suspension were to be made on their basis, then it would be perfectly understandable.”


My attention is aroused. I travel to Stockholm. Here, I should apparently learn more about the ominous papers. In an email, or by phone this cannot be cleared up, i am told. How serious this is, I still have to learn.


Here I have an appointment with the person who apparently knows who the blood values of the years 2009 to 2011 came from. My contact person comes from close to the IAAF Athletics World Federation, wishes to remain anonymous, is scared. The conversation is about alleged corruption.


Insider (anonymous): “How can we trust the IAAF, if I must assume that bribes are being accepted in doping cases? If money is extorted from someone without explanation, without saying which rules were broken.”

Reporter: “Are you saying that there is someone in the IAAF who does that?”

Insider (anonymous): “Yes. At least in one case I assume.”

Reporter: “Do you think this person takes money to cover up positive doping tests?”

Insider (anonymous): “That’s right.

Is that what’s behind the blood values? Was no suspension really imposed despite the doping? To get any further, I need to know whose blood values this are. In the meantime I know from which competitions they are. Actually, there can be only one. In fact, a Russian Marathon superstar. Are these the values of Lyliya Shobukhova?

Insider (anonymous): “Yes.”


Liliya Shobukohova. For several years the best female marathon runner in the world. She won the London and Chicago Marathons. Earned millions. Ran from success to success – apparently with blood values that were beyond any regulations. Measured at the Chicago Marathon. She was never suspended. Despite her blood values. Until this summer. During this research. Then the old blood values did catch up with her.


I attempt to contact her. A world star now suspended because of doping. Concealed doping, that is what the informant in Stockholm had talked about. What does Liliya Shobukhova know about this?

Weeks pass. Finally: A message. Liliya Shobukhova agrees to meet me. Why did she, who had already between 2009 and 2011 had extremely abnormal blood values, be unchallenged for so long? The IAAF writes to me saying that suspensions based on such blood values can take so long. But also, that there was a significant delay on the Russian side. Lilya Shobukhova tells the reason this way:


Lilya Shobukhova: “It all started at the end of 2011, in December. The Russian Athletics Federation approached us. They told us that we could have problems – that participating at the 2012 Olympic Games was endangered. And now we would have to pay 150,000 Euros to solve these problems. Then I could take part in the Olympic Games. I have dedicated my whole life to preparing for the Olympic Games.”

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