Ath­let­ics cor­rup­tion trial be­gins in France

Jamaica Gleaner - - SPORTS -

APARIS (AP):

PARIS court heard al­le­ga­tions yes­ter­day that top ath­letes hushed up sus­pected dop­ing by giv­ing mil­lions of dol­lars in il­licit pay­offs to cor­rupt ad­min­is­tra­tors as the trial got un­der-way for the dis­graced for­mer head of track and field, who was once among the most in­flu­en­tial lead­ers in Olympic sports.

Wear­ing a face mask, Lamine Di­ack was present in court for the first of six days of hear­ings that will weigh ev­i­dence that his pres­i­dency of track and field’s gov­ern­ing body was rid­dled with cor­rup­tion and other malfea­sance, hurt­ing ath­letes who raced against com­peti­tors who were sus­pected of dop­ing but who have since tes­ti­fied that they paid to keep com­pet­ing.

Doc­u­ments seized dur­ing the years-long in­ves­ti­ga­tion sug­gest that ath­letes paid to have dop­ing charges buried or de­layed, an il­licit mech­a­nism dubbed “full pro­tec­tion,” the court pres­i­dent said, out­lin­ing the case with ten­ta­cles stretch­ing from Europe to Asia and Africa.

In the au­di­ence was a French marathon run­ner, Chris­telle Dau­nay, who com­peted against one of the ath­letes, Rus­sian run­ner Liliya Shobukhova, who later tes­ti­fied to in­ves­ti­ga­tors about il­licit pay­ments to hush up dop­ing. Beaten by Shobukhova at the 2011 Chicago Marathon, Dau­nay is a civil party to the case and is seek­ing €110,000 in dam­ages and com­pen­sa­tion for earn­ings she be­lieves she lost be­cause of the al­leged cover-ups by ad­min­is­tra­tors at the IAAF, in­clud­ing Di­ack.

“It was a whole sys­tem, and when you see all the money in­volved, it’s shock­ing,” Dau­nay said.

Di­ack, 87, the IAAF pres­i­dent for nearly 16 years, is be­ing tried for cor­rup­tion, money laun­der­ing, and breach of trust. Pros­e­cu­tors say he di­rectly or in­di­rectly so­licited €3.45 mil­lion from ath­letes sus­pected by the IAAF of dop­ing who paid to have their names cleared so that they could con­tinue com­pet­ing. About two dozen Rus­sian ath­letes were re­port­edly in­volved. Shobukhova tes­ti­fied that she alone paid the equiv­a­lent of €450,000, a large chunk of which was sub­se­quently re­funded to her when she was later sus­pended for dop­ing de­spite the al­leged pay­off, the court pres­i­dent de­tailed.

AR­RESTED

As IAAF pres­i­dent, Di­ack over­saw an era when Usain Bolt made track and field wildly pop­u­lar. But Di­ack’s legacy, and the IAAF’s cred­i­bil­ity, took a beat­ing af­ter he stepped down in 2015. He was ar­rested in France, and in­ves­ti­ga­tors re­vealed ac­cu­sa­tions of ath­letes be­ing squeezed for pay­ments.

Gabriel Dolle, who over­saw drugtest­ing at the IAAF and who is ac­cused of tak­ing €190,000 in pay­ments, told the court that Di­ack asked him that sus­pected dop­ing cases in­volv­ing Rus­sian ath­letes be han­dled “rea­son­ably” to avoid a scan­dal that could set back IAAF ne­go­ti­a­tions with spon­sors.

Dolle said he agreed to a “spe­cial, dis­creet” treat­ment for some ath­letes sus­pected of dop­ing, which would have in­volved them be­ing qui­etly pre­vented from com­pet­ing. He said he was “furious” when some of them were then al­lowed to com­pete at the London Olympics.

Dolle is be­ing tried on a cor­rup­tion charge. He ac­knowl­edged hav­ing taken an en­ve­lope of money in 2013 from Papa Mas­sata Di­ack, one of Di­ack’s sons. Dolle said Papa Mas­sata Di­ack told him that the money was “for what you’re do­ing for the Rus­sian cases”.

Papa Mas­sata Di­ack also faces cor­rup­tion, money laun­der­ing, and breach of trust charges. He lives in Sene­gal, which has re­fused France’s ex­tra­di­tion re­quests for the for­mer IAAF mar­ket­ing con­sul­tant. He did not at­tend yes­ter­day’s hear­ing.

Lamine Di­ack is ex­pected to tes­tify to­mor­row. He was de­tained on a trip to France in 2015 and has been for­bid­den from leav­ing the coun­try since.

Also on trial on cor­rup­tion charges is a lawyer who ad­vised Di­ack, Habib Cisse. Two Rus­sians are be­ing tried in their ab­sence: Valentin Balakhnich­ev, a for­mer IAAF trea­surer; and Alexei Mel­nikov, a coach who led Rus­sia’s long-dis­tance run­ning pro­gramme.

AP

For­mer pres­i­dent of the IAAF (In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Ath­let­ics Fed­er­a­tions) Lamine Di­ack (fore­ground) ar­rives with his lawyer, Wil­liam Bour­don (right), at the Paris court­house, yes­ter­day.

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