Former IAAF president Lamine Diack sentenced to four years in prison for Russian doping corruption

Diack was found guilty of accepting bribes from athletes suspected of doping to cover up results but is set to be spared jail due to his age

Lamine Diack 
Lamine Diack was president of the International Association of Athletics Federations, now renamed World Athletics, between 1999 and 2015 Credit: REUTERS

Lord Coe’s disgraced predecessor as head of World Athletics is set to be spared jail for his part in the Russian doping scandal despite being sentenced to four years in prison for corruption.

Lamine Diack, who was also fined €500,000 (£454,000), was found guilty of accepting bribes from athletes suspected of doping to cover up test results and let them continue competing, including at the 2012 Olympics in London.

Additionally, a Paris court ruled Diack  had accepted Russian money to help finance Macky Sall’s campaign for the same year’s presidential election in his native Senegal, in exchange for slowing anti-doping procedures.

But, as well as the 87-year-old being cleared of a further money-laundering charge, trial judge Rose-Marie Hunault told him to “expect conditional release” due to his age, Diack having been detained in France since November 2015.

Papa Massata Diack says the French court has no jurisdiction Credit: AP

His son, Papa Massata, who fled the country and remains in Senegal, was sentenced in his absence to five years in prison and fined €1m (£913,000) after being found guilty of separate corruption offences.

Four other men charged in the case were convicted of various such offences: Habib Cisse, Diack snr’s former lawyer; Gabriel Dollé, who oversaw drug testing at World Athletics; the former head of Russian athletics Valentin Balakhnitchev; and the latter’s former head coach Alexei Melnikov.

The six co-defendants were also ordered to pay World Athletics, formerly known as the International Association of Athletics Federations, a total of almost €16m (£14.6m) in damages.

Diack snr’s lawyers branded Wednesday's verdict “unjust and inhumane”, and said they would appeal that and the sentence of two years in prison and a further two years suspended. Their client, who stood accused of soliciting bribes totalling around €3.45m (£3.15m), had been president of the IAAF for 16 years until 2015.

Upon succeeding him, Coe described Diack as the “spiritual leader of our sport”, a eulogy that came back to haunt the former London 2012 chief after his predecessor’s corruption was exposed.

The prosecution alleged Diack obtained Russian funds in exchange for the IAAF’s anti-doping arm covering up or delaying offences by 23 Russians to allow them to compete at  the 2012 Olympics and the following year’s World Championships in Moscow.

Diack told the court it was his decision to delay bans after the athletes failed tests in 2011, but he denied knowing officials from the body had directly or indirectly asked those athletes for hundreds of thousands of pounds to hush up their cases.

He said he was acting to safeguard “the financial health of the IAAF” because the federation was negotiating major sponsorship contracts with Russian bank VTB and a Russian broadcaster at the time.

Diack, who was decorated in the Kremlin in late 2011, denied taking Russian funds to finance the successful campaign by Sall for the Senegalese presidency.

Of Diack jnr, the judge said $15 million (£11.6m) was funnelled to his companies, including commissions and money creamed off contracts and the sale of TV rights and other transactions.

Senegal has refused to extradite the 55-year-old to France, and in a press conference in his country’s capital, Dakar, on Monday, he declared himself “innocent” and argued that the court had no jurisdiction.

He said he was not a French resident and that his companies were registered in his native Senegal.

Senegalese authorities are conducting their own investigation and he is facing similar charges to the ones filed in France.

He accused British authorities of being behind the charges – which he branded “the biggest lie in the history of world sport” – in a bid to secure the IAAF presidency.

Balakhnitchev, who was sentenced to three years in prison and fined, vowed to appeal his own conviction.

The verdicts will not mark the end of Diacks’ dealings with the French justice system. The father, a former International Olympic Committee member, and son are subjects of a second investigation on suspicions of corruption in the allocation of the 2016 Olympics to Rio and the postponed 2020 Games to Tokyo.

In a statement, World Athletics said: "This has been a long five years and we would like to thank the French Prosecutors and the Paris Criminal Court for their time, detailed work and deliberations in to this case.

"Whilst we are disappointed this happened in our sport, we are grateful for the strong and clear decisions that have been taken against the individuals involved and charged with these crimes, and we would like to reassure everyone that the reforms our Congress approved in 2016 will ensure that similar actions by individuals can never happen again in our sport."