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Former athletics boss sentenced to two years in jail

by Barbados Today
6 min read

Former International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) President Lamine Diack has been sentenced to two years in prison after being found guilty of corruption by a French court.

Diack, who led athletics’ worldwide governing body from 1999 to 2015, was also given a further two years of suspended jail time and has been fined €500,000 (£454,000/$590,000) following his conviction on charges linked to the Russian doping scandal.

The 87-year-old has been convicted on several corruption charges but found not guilty of “organised money laundering” by the Paris Criminal Court.

Lamine Diack was found to have covered up Russian doping cases so athletes from the country could compete at major events including the London 2012 Olympic Games and the 2013 World Championships in Moscow, in exchange for cash.

His son Papa Massata, who refuses to be extradited from Senegal, was convicted and jailed for five years in absentia.

The former marketing consultant at the IAAF, now called World Athletics, has been fined €1 million (£913,000/$1.2 million).

Papa Massata was found to have siphoned off $15 million (£11.6 million/€12.7 million), including commissions, from TV contracts and the sale of rights, to his companies while his father led the IAAF.

Both Lamine and Papa Massata Diack have been ordered to pay World Athletics €5 million (£4.6 million/$5.9 million) in damages for breach of trust.

World Athletics was awared a total of €16 million (£14.6 million/$18.9 million) in damages.

All four other defendants – Gabriel Dollé, the former head of anti-doping at the IAAF, Lamine Diack’s advisor Habib Cisse, ex-Russian Athletics Federation President Valentin Balakhnichev and Alexei Melnikov, the former the former head distance coach of the Russian national team – were also found guilty.

Dollé has been given a two-year suspended sentence, while Balakhnichev has been given a three-year jail term.

Cisse and Melnikov were also found guilty.

Neither of the two Russians were in attendance after refusing to cooperate with the process.

Prosecutors had alleged Lamine Diack solicited €3.45 million (£3.1 million/$3.9 million) from Russian athletes to conceal their doping offences.

He was also found guilty of accepting Russian money to help finance Macky Sall’s campaign for President of Senegal in 2012 after stalling anti-doping procedures involving Russian athletes.

Judge Rose-Marie Hunault said Diack had been involved in a scheme which offered “full protection” to Russian competitors when announcing the sentence.

It is unlikely that Diack will spend any time in prison after the judge told the disgraced former International Olympic Committee member he could “expect conditional release” due to his age.

Judge Hunualt said Diack had “undermined the values of athletics and the fight against doping” with his actions.

“You violated the rules of the game,” Hunault added.

Diack, previously an influential sports figure before he became embroiled in corruption, has already lodged an appeal, according to reports.

One of Diack’s lawyers, Simon Ndiaye, described the verdict as “unjust and inhuman”.

Prosecutors had asked for a four-year jail sentence during the trial in the French capital in June.

William Bourdon, another lawyer for the defence, had urged the judges “not to take a decision that stops him from dying with dignity, surrounded by his loved ones, on his native land”.

Papa Massata was tried in absentia on charges of money laundering and breach of trust.

Prior to the verdict he claimed he and his father had been the victims of an “Anglo-Saxon conspiracy” and insisted they were innocent.

He said the French court had no jurisdiction as the alleged crimes took place in Russia, Qatar, Senegal, Japan and Turkey.

The Diacks are also being investigated on suspicion of corruption in the awarding of the 2016 Olympic Games to Rio de Janeiro and the postponed 2020 Games to Tokyo.

“This has been a long five years and we would like to thank the French Prosecutors and the Paris Criminal Court for their time, detailed work and deliberations in to this case,” World Athletics said in a statement.

“While we are disappointed this happened in our sport, we are grateful for the strong and clear decisions that have been taken against the individuals involved and charged with these crimes, and we would like to reassure everyone that the reforms our Congress approved in 2016 will ensure that similar actions by individuals can never happen again in our sport.

“We are grateful for the damages awarded by the Paris Criminal Court totalling €16 million for embezzled funds and for reputational damage suffered as a direct consequence of these crimes and the resulting media coverage.

“As the Court acknowledged, this damage has impacted World Athletics’ finances and had a negative impact on World Athletics’ image and reputation in a deep and lasting way.

“We will do everything we can to recover the monies awarded, and return them to the organisation for the development of athletics globally.”

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) also welcomed the verdict, with President Witold Bańka labelling it “a victory for athletes and for clean sport” and a demonstration “that no one is above the law”.

WADA director general Olivier Niggli added: “This case, like so many, started with a whistleblower, who brought important information to WADA’s attention.

“In 2015, WADA shared this intelligence along with other elements of its then ongoing Pound investigation with French prosecutors and, on that basis, a criminal investigation was opened.

“This case shows the importance of WADA’s work with law enforcement agencies around the world as we seek to ensure that those who engage in corruption or try to cheat the system face the appropriate sanctions.

“It is particularly pleasing for us that all the factual elements we provided to the French investigators were confirmed by the court’s decision.” (Insidethegames)

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