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Doping: “Clean athletes are victims”

Former marathon runner Christelle Daunay is one of the civil parties in the trial of Lamine Diack, former president of the International Athletics Federation (IAAF, now World Athletics), which opened on Monday in Paris. The French marathon recordwoman will be auditioned on Thursday. Lamine Diack, 87, appears at the bar with other ex-IAAF leaders. Also accused, but absent, and on whom hangs an international arrest warrant, the son of Diack and former leaders of the Russian Athletics Federation.

All are accused of active and passive corruption and money laundering in an organized gang. Which had found a system to cover many Russian athletes who, although doped, continued to take part in competitions. One of these athletes, Liliya Shobukhova, was one of the best marathon runners in the world between 2009 and 2014, when she was finally confused and disqualified. Christelle Daunay often found her in front of her during her career. Assisted by his lawyer Antoine Woimant, the French athlete requests compensation for the moral prejudice suffered and also for loss of luck in the various sponsorship and engagement contracts in the races which support a high-level marathon runner.

In what state of mind do you arrive at your hearing in court this Thursday?

I am very happy that this trial is taking place. There was a request for postponement but it was rejected. I am relieved because after five years this trial has finally arrived.

Are you supported in your approach or do you go it alone?

A bit of both. I am surprised that there was no spontaneous support from other athletes. There are two of us to bring a civil action; I was the first. I am also surprised that there was no spontaneous support from the federations. But afterwards I have the support of athletes, simple runners and players in the community so that I can go to the end.

How is it possible that on such an important lawsuit only two athletes take civil action, while for more than a decade dozens of athletes have competed with doped sportsmen, in particular Russian?

I cannot answer on behalf of those who did not wish to bring a civil action. Maybe we don’t have the information to defend ourselves. With Me Woimant, we looked to see if I could be a civil party. When doped athletes are arrested, they are removed from the medal or, in the end, a bonus, but the others do not earn the bonus they should have received. It’s in the system, the results are erased but there is no repair for the other athletes. We are victims and it is important to defend ourselves. We may be afraid to attack the system. There it was an opportunity to fight against doping but also against corruption. We cannot let our governing bodies do it; they must set an example by protecting clean athletes. In this case they did the opposite by covering those who were doped.

You are asking for 200,000 euros in respect of the various losses. But can this money fix everything?

It is difficult to estimate the damages financially. If Shobukhova had not run I would have surely won more money but how much? It’s hard to say. I especially want to be recognized as a victim, to come out with the status of victim of corruption by IAAF leaders. The latter also claims damages … What interests me is to say that this system has damaged the lives of clean athletes. Our “value” when negotiating a sponsorship contract changes a lot depending on the results. With Shobukhova or without her in a race, it was not the same thing.

Have things changed at the IAAF (World Athletics) regarding the fight against doping?

Athletics is one of the most controlled sports, you can see, there are regular sanctions. Afterwards, the case we are talking about today is corruption.

In France we recently had two doping cases, Clémence Calvin first and Ophélie Claude-Boxberger then. The first had taken away your French record for a few weeks. What are your views on these two cases and how can we better fight against doping in France?

Checks must continue. In the Calvin affair we see that the French anti-doping agency had worked a lot. It is true that I was particularly touched by this case because it concerned my France record. Records are made to be broken, no problem, but it must be done by a clean athlete. I am satisfied that this record is not in Clémence’s possession given the facts of which she was accused. Regarding Claude-Boxberger, I don’t really know her. This is yet another story of doping. We must continue the fight by investing more money in it.

Today you are a coach at the French Athletics Federation. What do you tell your athletes when they have doubts about their opponent’s cleanliness?

Throughout my career, I have had doubts from time to time about the athletes around me. When I had Liliya Shobukhova at my side, I wondered about her performance, I told myself that she was controlled like me, that if she was on the starting line is that everything was fine … We try to do with, but we have suspicions on some. Despite everything, I loved my job as a top sportswoman. We tell ourselves that we can beat it on the field in real performance conditions. This is a subject that comes up with the athletes I coach: we are watching the performances. Whatever the level, when we see very strong progress, differences in minutes, we ask ourselves questions. It puts doubt, for sure, and to earn a living while staying clean, it becomes more and more difficult. A medal that arrives years after brings no benefit to the athlete, except to see it in a box at home.

Luca Endrizzi

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