The Albanian Athletics Federation (AAF) president Gjergj Ruli and general secretary Nikolin Dionisi have been banned by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) for competition manipulation. Ruli is out for five years, while Dionisi is out for four. The AIU determined that the two federation officials manipulated documents and an image to assist long jumper Izmir Smajlaj in qualifying for the Tokyo Olympic Games, which he competed in.

Apparently, at the Dita E Kërcimeve Competition held on May 8 2021 in Tirana, Albania, Smajlaj placed first setting a national record and a new personal best distance of 8.16 metres. This performance “qualified” him for the Tokyo Games. Ruli also happened to be Smajlaj’s coach and travelled to Tokyo with him.

Below translation: “Izmir Smajlaj and his coach Gjergj Ruli are preparing intensively for the “Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games”. In an interview, both expressed that their objective and dream is to carry the Albanian flag to the final of the long jump at the Olympics.”

The AUI requested an explanation about the falsified photo that showed Smajlaj standing at the long jump track in front of wind-measuring equipment. Ruli, Dionisi and Smajlaj all admitted there was in fact no wind-measuring equipment at the competition. The photo was taken on a different day. They could not explain the basis for the wind measurement readings that were sent to World Athletics.

The three were charged with breaching the following standards in the AIU Code: Honesty (Rule 3.3.1), Maintain Integrity of Competition (Rule 3.3.4), Failure to Report (Rule 3.3.15); as well as Complicity under Rule 4.4 of the Code.

Dionisi admitted all charges and accepted a lesser period of ineligibility of four years from Dec. 9 2022 to 8 Dec. 2026. However, Ruli contested the charges before the Disciplinary Tribunal which ruled it was “comfortably satisfied” that the AAF President was knowingly involved in the falsification of the wind measurement readings and knowingly involved in the submission of a falsified photograph to the AIU and that, as a result, he had acted in violation of the Code. Ruli’s sanction is a period of ineligibility of five years from April 6 2023 to April 5, 2028.

The Tribunal found that the charges against the athlete, Smajlaj, were not established as it was not comfortably satisfied that he was knowingly involved in the conspiracy to submit the false information. His provisional suspension has therefore been lifted.

The thirty-year-old long jumper has rarely bettered 8m and did not finish in the top-12 in Tokyo.