Doping Corruption Case Reaches Court in Paris

PARIS (AP) — A sports corruption case involving allegations of a massive doping cover-up and far-reaching malfeasance at the top of track and field opened Monday in Paris and quickly ran into legal hurdles.

The two-week trial is expected to detail evidence that Russian athletes paid millions of dollars to hide their suspected doping so they could compete at the Olympics in 2012 and other competitions.

Lab technicians work at Russia’s national drug-testing laboratory in Moscow in 2016. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)

Lamine Diack, who served as president of the sport’s governing body for nearly 16 years, is one of the accused recipients of the payments.

At the opening of the hearing, the prosecution asked that the trial be delayed to weigh new evidence received from Senegal, where Diack was born and his son, Papa Massata Diack, also charged in the case, lives, shielded from an international arrest warrant issued by France.

Prosecutors said they received the evidence — three thick folders of notes that they held up in court — on Monday only hours before the hearing opened. They said it included statements that Papa Massata Diack made to investigators in Senegal and banking details from three of his consultancy firms.

Papa Massata Diack is accused of working with his father on the corruption scheme. But his lawyers told the court that he will not attend the hearing.

The judges withdrew to consider the request for a delay.

As IAAF president, Diack was one of the most influential men in Olympic sports, presiding over 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 to cover up their doping cases.

The 86-year-old Diack is being tried for corruption, money laundering and breach of trust. Prosecutors say he directly or indirectly solicited 3.45 million euros ($3.8 million) from athletes suspected by the IAAF of doping who paid to have their names cleared so they could continue competing. About two dozen Russian athletes were reportedly involved.

Prosecutors also charged Diack for involvement in a $ 1.5 million payment from Russia for use in electoral politics in his native Senegal. Prosecutors say the money was creamed off sponsorship and TV rights deals, negotiated with Russian officials. Prosecutors say the money was to finance presidential and legislative election campaigns in Senegal in 2012, in exchange for slowing down doping cases targeting Russian athletes.

Diack is also accused of having enabled his son to embezzle IAAF sponsorship revenue from Russia’s VTB Bank, Chinese oil firm Sinopec and broadcaster CCTV, South Korean tech giant Samsung and others.

Papa Massata Diack also faces corruption, money laundering and breach of trust charges. Senegal has refused France’s extradition requests for the former IAAF marketing consultant.

Lamine Diack was detained on a trip to France in 2015 and has been forbidden from leaving the country ever since.

Also being tried for corruption and expected in court are a lawyer who advised Diack, Habib Cisse, and a doctor, Gabriel Dolle, who oversaw drug-testing at the IAAF and is accused of taking payments to delay doping cases.

Two Russians are also on trial but not expected in court: Valentin Balakhnichev, a former IAAF treasurer, and Alexei Melnikov, a coach who led Russia’s long-distance running program.

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