French prosecutors want ex-athletics boss Diack to stand trial: sources

Paris (AFP) –


French prosecutors have recommended that the former head of athletics' governing body IAAF, Lamine Diack, and his son stand trial for allegedly obstructing sanctions against Russia for doping in return for payments, sources told AFP Monday.

Prosecutors have recommended that Diack, who was president of the International Association of Athletics Federations from 1999 to 2015, be tried for corruption and money laundering.

The prosecutors want five other people, including Diack's son Papa Massata Diack, a former marketing consultant to the IAAF, to stand trial.

His 85-year-old father has been questioned by prosecutors in France on several occasions. But Papa Massata Diack, who like his father lives in Senegal, has refused to cooperate.

Investigating magistrate Renaud Van Ruymbeke must now decide whether the case should go to trial.

The French investigation began in 2015, when Britain's Sebastian Coe took over from Diack as IAAF president.

French prosecutors have taken up the case because they suspect money was laundered in France.

The backdrop to the investigation is the alleged system of state-sponsored doping uncovered in Russia by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

Prosecutors allege that Lamine Diack was prepared to accept funding for political campaigns in Senegal in return for lenient treatment by IAAF anti-doping officials of Russian athletes.

- Russian whistleblower -

In a 48-page summary, prosecutors say: "Under the leadership of its president and after many years of mishandling, the IAAF brought together corruption and incitement to carry out doping."

One doping case involving Russian athletes that prosecutors have scrutinised is that of marathon runner Liliya Shobukhova, who won the Chicago marathon three times but was later banned for using the endurance-boosting drug EPO.

Shobukhova admitted paying 450,000 euros ($500,000) to avoid sanctions. When she was suspended in 2014, she blew the whistle on corruption between Russian athletics and IAAF figures, including Papa Massata Diack.

French prosecutors say the former head of Russia's athletics federation, Valentin Balakhnishev, and the country's former national middle distance coach Alexei Melnikov, should face trial for corruption.

Also in their sights are Diack's former advisor, Habib Cisse, and the IAAF's former anti-doping chief Gabriel Dolle. They recommend both men should be charged with "passive corruption".

In 2017, Papa Massata Diack branded the corruption allegations against him as "a witch hunt" and accused France of having "taken hostage" his father.

The IAAF suspended Russia in November 2015 after the allegations of state involvement in doping emerged.

Russian track and field athletes were banned from competing under their own flag at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Russia was re-admitted to the Olympic fold last year but the IAAF continues to ban Russian athletes from competing in their national colours.