Former head of World Athletics’ governing body, Lamine Diack, arrived in court in Paris Monday to stand trial on charges of corruption, money laundering and breach of trust linked to a Russian doping scandal.
According to prosecutors Diack solicited €3.45 million ($3.9 million) from athletes suspected of doping to delay doping sanctions and allow them to continue competing, including in the 2012 London Olympics. If convicted he could face up to 10 years in prison.
Prosecutors also charged Diack for involvement in a USD 1.5 million payment from Russia a deal that prosecutors say helped fund the 2012 election campaign for Senegalese President Macky Sall in exchange for slowing down doping cases targeting Russian athletes.
Diack,who led the governing World Athletics, previously known as International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), from 1999-2015 has been forbidden from leaving France since the investigation began after being detained while on a trip in 2015.
He is also accused of having enabled his son,Papa Massata Diack, who worked as marketing consultant for IAAF to embezzle IAAF sponsorship revenue from Russia’s VTB Bank, Chinese oil firm Sinopec and broadcaster CCTV, South Korean tech giant Samsung and others. His son faces corruption, money laundering and breach of trust charges and will be tried in absentia as Senegal has refused to extradite him.
Papa Massata is implicated through a payment of €450,000 from Russian runner Liliya Shobukhova, allegedly to have her blood passport case delayed in order to compete in the 2012 Olympic marathon..
The case is being pursued by the French authorities because the alleged money-laundering happened in France.
The trial had been due to start in January but was postponed after new documents containing testimony from his son and co-defendant were submitted to the court.
Papa Massata’s French lawyer on Monday said his client’s Senegalese counterparts were indispensable to his defense but had been unable to travel to Paris because of border restrictions caused by coronavirus.
The other defendants are Habib Cisse, Diack’s former lawyer at the IAAF; Gabriel Dolle, who oversaw doping tests at the IAAF; and Russians Valentin Balakhnitchev and Alexei Melnikov, who were chief and head athletics coach, respectively, of Russia’s athletics’ federation at the time of the alleged cover-up.
Balakhnitchev and Melnikov were not in court.
The scandal that the trial touches on led to Russia being banned from competing in several international competitions over state-sponsored doping between 2011 and 2015.
Despite being reinstated by other sports federations, Russia is still banned from competing as a nation by World Athletics.
Other corruption scandals
Investigators at the French National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF) describe a web of corruption in world athletics under Diack’s leadership.
In a separate case, French prosecutors are investigating alleged bribes related to the Olympics and World Athletics Championships.
They suspect the bidding committee for Tokyo’s 2020 Olympic Games, which have been postponed for a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, bribed the Diacks in 2013 to secure votes, which the committee has denied.