The former head of the world governing body for athletics, Lamine Diack, was found guilty on Wednesday by a French corruption court of covering up doping cases in Russia and sentenced to four years in prison, two of which were suspended.
Diack, an 87-year-old Senegalese who headed the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), now renamed World Athletics, for 16 years was also fined 500,000 euros ($ 600,000).
The presiding judge in Paris, Rose-Marie Hunault, said Diack’s actions had “caused serious damage to the fight against doping.”
Other senior figures in athletics, including Diack’s son Papa Massata Diack and former IAAF anti-doping chief Gabriel Dolle, also received prison terms for their participation in a scheme in which doping violations were silenced. of 23 Russian athletes. he could compete in the 2012 London Olympics and the 2013 Moscow World Championships.
Papa Massata Diack, a former IAAF marketing consultant, who was tried in absentia because Senegal refused to extradite him, was sentenced to five years in prison and fined one million euros.
Previously one of the most influential figures in world sport, Lamine Diack was IAAF president from 1999 to 2015 until he was replaced by Britain’s Sebastian Coe in August 2015.
– ‘Complete protection’ –
The prosecution alleged that under the plan, called “Total Protection,” individual Russian athletes paid 3.2 million euros ($ 3.8 million) in exchange for the IAAF anti-doping body to cover their drug use.
Diack told the court that it was his decision to waive the bans after the athletes failed tests in 2011, but denied knowing that agency officials had directly or indirectly asked those athletes for a payment to silence their cases.
He said he was acting to safeguard “the financial health of the IAAF” because the federation was negotiating major sponsorship contracts with the Russian bank VTB and a Russian broadcaster at the time.
Diack, who was decorated in the Kremlin in late 2011, denied accepting an additional $ 1.5 million of Russian funds to finance Macky Sall’s successful campaign for the presidency of Senegal.
Diack, who was in court to hear his sentence, said he would file an appeal immediately.
The judge said Diack was unlikely to go to jail and told him: “Given his age, he can expect parole.”
Dolle was sentenced to two years in prison with suspension and a fine of 140,000 euros, and lawyer Habib Cisse, who was Lamine Diack’s advisor, was sentenced to three years in prison, of which two were suspended.
Two Russian officials tried in his absence, former president of the national athletics federation Valentin Balakhnichev, who was also IAAF treasurer, and former coach Alexei Melnikov, were sentenced to prison terms of three years and two years respectively.
Balakhnichev said he would also appeal and told the Russian news agency Ria Novosti that the French authorities “deprived me of my legal right to defend myself and said that I was not cooperating with the investigation, which I categorically deny.”
Reacting to the verdict, World Athletics said it was grateful for the € 16 million compensation the court ordered to pay to the culprits and insisted that the new structures that are put in place will prevent such practices from happening again.
“While we are disappointed that this has happened in our sport, we are grateful for the firm and clear decisions that have been made against the people involved in and accused of these crimes, and we want to assure everyone that the reforms passed by our Congress in 2016 ensure that similar actions by individuals never happen again in our sport, ”the federation said in a statement.
“As recognized by the court, this damage has impacted the image and reputation of World Athletics in a profound and lasting way,” the federation said in a statement.
“We will do everything possible to recover the money awarded and return it to the organization for the development of athletics worldwide.”