PARIS • Lamine Diack, the former head of world athletics’ governing body, was convicted in Paris yesterday of corruption in a Russian doping scandal and sentenced to spend at least two years in jail.
The 87-year-old was found guilty of taking bribes from athletes in return for orchestrating the cover-up of test results that enabled them to continue competing, including in the 2012 London Olympics.
He was also found guilty of accepting Russian money to help finance Macky Sall’s 2012 presidential campaign in Senegal, his home country, in exchange for slowing anti-doping procedures, the court ruled.
The court had heard how Diack solicited bribes totalling €3.45 million (S$5.5 million) from athletes suspected of drugs cheating and paid off other officials at the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to aid with the cover-up.
The presiding judge, Rose-Marie Hunault, said the former long jumper’s actions had “undermined the values of athletics and the fight against doping”.
“The money was paid in exchange for a programme of ‘full protection’,” she said, adding that the scheme enabled athletes who should have been suspended “to escape sanctions”. “You violated the rules of the game.”
The court handed Diack, who was wearing a white robe, a four-year prison sentence, two years of which are suspended, and imposed the maximum fine of €500,000.
Hunault, however, said Diack was unlikely to go to jail, adding: “Given your age, you can expect conditional release.”
His lawyers called the judgment against him unfair and inhumane, and said they would appeal.
Diack was once one of the most influential men in the sport, leading the IAAF, now known as World Athletics, from 1999 to 2015.
Behind my mask, you can’t see it, but I’m smiling. I’m pleased, too, for all the athletes. We have to keep up the fight against doping.
” CHRISTELLE DAUNAY, French marathoner who was in court, on the verdict.
In his testimony, he acknowledged slowing the handling of Russian doping cases between 2011-2013 to save a sponsorship deal with a Russian bank and avoid a public scandal, but denied the corruption allegations.
At the heart of the corruption scam alongside Diack was his son, Papa Massata Diack, a former marketing consultant for the IAAF.
Hunault said the Diacks worked together in diverting funds, telling Diack Sr that there was “an understanding between you and your son”, reported the Associated Press.
The court sentenced Papa Massata, who fled from France to Senegal after the French investigation began, to five years in prison and imposed a €1 million fine on him.
It also ordered both men to pay World Athletics €5 million in damages for breach of trust.
Four other defendants were charged in the case, including Habib Cisse, Diack’s former lawyer at the IAAF; Gabriel Dolle, who oversaw doping tests at the IAAF; former head of Russian athletics Valentin Balakhnitchev, and former Russian athletics’ head coach Alexei Melnikov.
All four were also found guilty of corruption offences.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE