Lamine Diack is accused of turning a blind eye to Russian doping in return for payment
Paris (AFP) - The Paris trial of Lamine Diack, the former head of athletics’ world governing body who is accused of accepting millions of dollars to cover up positive Russian doping tests, was adjourned Monday until at least June.
The presiding magistrate in the trial of the 86-year-old Senegalese said more time was needed to examine newly-released testimony from his son and co-accused, Papa Massata Diack, a former marketing consultant for the then-International Association of Athletics Federations (now World Athletics).
Diack senior is facing a potential 10-year prison sentence for accepting millions of dollars to cover up tests showing Russian doping.
Formerly president of the IAAF between 1999-2015, Diack is charged with “giving and receiving bribes”, “breach of trust” and “organised money laundering”, and attended court in the French capital.
The prosecution alleges that Diack obtained $1.5 million of Russian funds to help fund Macky Sall’s campaign for the 2012 Senegal presidential election – which he won – in exchange for the IAAF’s anti-doping arm covering up offenses or prosecution of 23 Russians.
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The aim was to allow the Russians to compete in the 2012 London Olympics and the 2013 World Athletics Championships in Moscow, prosecutors allege.
Key to those accusations is Papa Massata Diack, who handled lucrative contracts for the IAAF, and was implicated through a payment of 450,000 euros from Russian runner Liliya Shobukhova, allegedly to have her blood passport case delayed in order to compete in the 2012 Olympic marathon, as revealed by German TV station ARD in 2014.
Diack junior is accused of playing a “central role” in the network of corruption and is charged with “money laundering”, “giving bribes” and “aiding the receiving of bribes”.
But he has refused to cooperate with French authorities and remains in his native Senegal.
Despite two international arrest warrants issued by France, the Senegalese authorities have said they will not extradite him.
Diack junior was, however, questioned in Dakar in November over accusations against him and his father as part of a separate Senegalese investigation.
Prosecutor Arnaud de Laguiche said they had only on Monday morning received Diack’s testimony and had had time neither to study nor share it with other parties.
The trial, following a four-year investigation by the French Financial Prosecutor’s Office, will now likely run from June 3-22.
“I’m convinced I will manage to prove that I am anything but a leader of a gang who robs athletes,” said Diack senior, who asked, in vain, for the return of his passport in order to visit his family in Senegal.
“I regret the adjournment. I thought we were moving forward quickly and that we were getting closer to a return to Dakar.”
Also making a brief appearance in court was Habib Cisse, Lamine Diack’s former legal advisor, who is suspected of having acted as an intermediary between the then-IAAF and Russian athletics and having received hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The former IAAF anti-doping chief Gabriel Dolle was also present, accused of receiving bribes amounting to 190,000 euros. Both are French.
The deal that prosecutors say helped fund the 2012 Senegalese presidential election campaign of Diack senior’s friend Sall also allegedly smoothed the way for negotiations with Russian sponsors and broadcasters before the Moscow world championships.
The case is being pursued by the French authorities because the alleged money-laundering happened in France, where Lamine Diack has been under house arrest since the investigation began.
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.
Two other defendants were absent from the trial in Paris.
Valentin Balakhnichev, a former head of the Russian athletics federation and IAAF treasurer, is accused of “giving and receiving bribes” and “aggravated money-laundering”. Alexei Melnikov, formerly Russia’s chief distance running coach, is accused of “receiving bribes.”
Both are the subjects of international arrest warrants.