World Athletics will strive for €16m compensation after Diack conviction
World Athletics has said it will do “everything” possible to recover the €16 million ($18.9 million) it has been awarded by a French court following the conviction of five officials, including former president Lamine Diack, for corruption.
The 87-year-old Diack, who hails from Senegal, was yesterday sentenced to four years in prison, two of them suspended, and fined a maximum of €500,000 ($593,000) in a Paris trial after being found guilty of covering up positive doping tests of Russian athletes in return for bribes.
His son Papa Massata Diack, who was tried in his absence, was handed a five-year jail sentence and fined €1 million.
It was found that $15 million had been siphoned off to his companies, including commissions from contracts and TV rights sales, while his father was president of the IAAF, until 2015.
Three other individuals were convicted, and the court ruled that World Athletics, formerly known as the IAAF, was entitled to €16 million in damages to cover the embezzled funds and reputational damage as a result of the crimes and resulting media coverage.
Diack and his son were both ordered to pay €5 million to the federation.
However, with appeals pending and the younger Diack still in Senegal, which refused extradition requests, there is uncertainty over whether World Athletics, now headed up Sebastian Coe, will ever see the money.
In a statement yesterday evening, the federation 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.
“We are grateful for the damages awarded by the Paris Criminal Court totalling €16 million for embezzled funds and for reputational damage suffered as a direct consequence of these crimes and the resulting media coverage. As the Court acknowledged, this damage has impacted World Athletics’ finances and had a negative impact on World Athletics’ image and reputation in a deep and lasting way. We will do everything we can to recover the monies awarded, and return them to the organisation for the development of athletics globally.”
Earlier this month, World Athletics reported a financial loss of $17.4 million for 2019, and is set for a further deficit this year given the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the international calendar.
Lamine Diack was charged with directly or indirectly soliciting €3.2 million from Russian athletes to cover up positive drugs tests to enable them to continue competing in events, including at the London 2012 Olympic Games and the 2013 IAAF World Championships in Moscow.
It was claimed that a total of 23 athletes had avoided sanctions for positive tests.
Diack was also accused of directing $1.5 million of the Russian money to help finance election campaigns in Senegal, including Macky Sall’s successful run for president in 2012.
The World Anti-Doping Agency, which provided information to support the probe, was awarded €300,000 in costs and damages, and has welcomed the outcome of the case.
WADA president Witold Bańka said: “This is a victory for athletes and for clean sport. It shows that no one is above the law. It is particularly encouraging when sports-related corruption is being taken seriously by criminal justice systems around the world, and the French authorities are to be congratulated for their diligence and commitment.”