Former IAAF president Lamine Diack under investigation for doping cover-up

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PARIS (AP) — In another blow to the credibility of a major sports federation, former IAAF President Lamine Diack has been placed under criminal investigation on suspicion of taking more than $1 million in bribes from Russia to cover up positive doping tests.

French prosecutors said Wednesday that Diack is being investigated on corruption and money-laundering charges. Diack and other IAAF officials are suspected of taking money in 2011 to allow at least six Russian athletes to continue competing, some of them at the 2012 London Olympics, when then they should been banned for doping.

“They decided not to act and now we understand why. It was in exchange for money,” Jean-Yves Lourgouilloux, assistant prosecutor at the French office that handles financial prosecutions, told The Associated Press.

He said Diack is suspected of pocketing in the region of 1 million euros ($1.2 million), paid by the Russian athletics federation, some of it in cash.

A legal adviser to Diack, Habib Cisse, also was placed under investigation by judges acting on evidence provided by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Diack, a former long jumper, stepped down in August, at the age of 82, after nearly 16 years in charge of track and field’s governing body.

The International Olympic Committee said it was referring Diack’s case to its ethics commission. Diack is now an honorary IOC member after serving on the committee for 15 years until 2014.

With FIFA President Sepp Blatter also facing a criminal corruption investigation, two of the most powerful governing bodies in sports are now in crisis.

The French prosecutors’ office said three investigating magistrates are handling the Diack probe.

Gabriel Dolle, who was the director of the IAAF’s anti-doping department, also has been taken into custody in Nice in the south of France, the prosecutors’ office in Paris said.

Diack and Cisse were taken into police custody on Sunday and held until Tuesday, when investigating magistrates then placed Diack under formal investigation on corruption and aggravated money-laundering charges. Cisse faces only the corruption charge.

Diack, who is Senegalese, was released on 500,000 euro ($550,000) bail, ordered to turn in his passport and not leave France, Lourgouilloux said. Habib also is barred from leaving the country.

Police also visited the IAAF headquarters in Monaco on Tuesday “to carry out interviews and to access documentation,” the IAAF said.

“The IAAF is fully cooperating with all investigations as it has been from the beginning of the process,” it said.

Sebastian Coe, who succeeded Diack as IAAF president, was in the organization’s offices when the French police arrived. He volunteered himself for questioning and spoke with the police, the IAAF said. The police also took away some documents.

WADA first approached French prosecutors in August with evidence of wrongdoing at the IAAF. A WADA commission led by former president Dick Pound has been investigating claims that corruption in Russia and at the IAAF allowed doping to thrive. The launch of that probe followed allegations made in a German television documentary last year of widespread doping and cover-ups in Russia, a track and field superpower, which have shaken the sport to its core. WADA hopes that Pound’s report will be completed this month.

The WADA panel is also examining more recent claims that one-third of medals in endurance races at the Olympics and world championships over a 10-year period were won by athletes who recorded suspicious doping tests. Those allegations in German and British media outlets were based on files from an IAAF database containing the results of confidential blood test results.

Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko played down the importance of the French probe.

“God knows what’s going on there,” he told Russian news agency Tass. “We’ve already said that our federation had problems. The old management isn’t working there anymore. Understand that there are a lot of criminal cases going on in the world right now and those are unclear cases.”

The IOC said it is “following these ongoing inquiries very closely” but also drew a line between Diack and Coe, the British middle-distance running great who won an IAAF election in August, defeating Ukrainian pole vault star Sergei Bubka.

“The IOC notes that the reasons for this inquiry relate to actions that occurred in the past,” it said. “We express full confidence in the new leadership of the IAAF which has repeatedly declared that it is in full alignment with the call for good governance in sport and the protection of the clean athletes.”

The IOC’s chief ethics and compliance officer, Paquerette Zappelli, said the ethics commission will look into Diack’s case.

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Snowboarders sue coach, USOPC in assault, harassment case

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Olympic bronze medalist Rosey Fletcher has filed a lawsuit accusing former snowboard coach Peter Foley of sexually assaulting, harassing and intimidating members of his team for years, while the organizations overseeing the team did nothing to stop it.

Fletcher is a plaintiff in one of two lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Thursday. One names Foley, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, the U.S. Ski & Snowboard team and its former CEO, Tiger Shaw, as defendants. Another, filed by a former employee of USSS, names Foley, Shaw and the ski federation as defendants.

One of the lawsuits, which also accuse the defendants of sex trafficking, harassment, and covering up repeated acts of sexual assault and misconduct, allege Foley snuck into bed and sexually assaulted Fletcher, then shortly after she won her bronze medal at the 2006 Olympics, approached her “and said he still remembered ‘how she was breathing,’ referring to the first time he assaulted her.”

The lawsuits describe Foley as fostering a depraved travel squad of snowboarders, in which male coaches shared beds with female athletes, crude jokes about sexual conquests were frequently shared and coaches frequently commented to the female athletes about their weight and body types.

“Male coaches, including Foley, would slap female athletes’ butts when they finished their races, even though the coaches would not similarly slap the butts of male athletes,” the lawsuit said. “Physical assault did not stop with slapping butts. Notably, a female athlete once spilled barbeque sauce on her chest while eating and a male coach approached her and licked it off her chest without warning or her consent.”

The USOPC and USSS knew of Foley’s behavior but did nothing to stop it, the lawsuit said. It depicted Foley as an all-powerful coach who could make and break athletes’ careers on the basis of how they got along off the mountain.

Foley’s attorney, Howard Jacobs, did not immediately return requests for comment from The Associated Press. Jacobs has previously said allegations of sexual misconduct against Foley are false.

In a statement, the USOPC said it had not seen the complaint and couldn’t comment on specific details but that “we take every allegation of abuse very seriously.”

“The USOPC is committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Team USA athletes, and we are taking every step to identify, report, and eliminate abuse in our community,” the statement said.

It wasn’t until the Olympics in Beijing last year that allegations about Foley’s behavior and the culture on the snowboarding team started to emerge.

Allegations posted on Instagram by former team member Callan Chythlook-Sifsof — who, along with former team member Erin O’Malley, is a plaintiff along with Fletcher — led to Foley’s removal from the team, which he was still coaching when the games began.

That posting triggered more allegations in reporting by ESPN and spawned an AP report about how the case was handled between USSS and the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which is ultimately responsible for investigating cases involving sex abuse in Olympic sports. The center has had Foley on temporary suspension since March 18, 2022.

The AP typically does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault unless they have granted permission or spoken publicly, as Fletcher, Chythlook-Sifsof and O’Malley have done through a lawyer.

USSS said it was made aware of the allegations against Foley on Feb 6, 2022, and reported them to the SafeSport center.

“We are aware of the lawsuits that were filed,” USSS said in a statement. “U.S. Ski & Snowboard has not yet been served with the complaint nor has had an opportunity to fully review it. U.S. Ski & Snowboard is and will remain an organization that prioritizes the safety, health and well-being of its athletes and staff.”

The lawsuits seek unspecified damages to be determined in a jury trial.

Oleksandr Abramenko, Ukraine’s top Winter Olympian, tears knee, career in question

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Aerials skier Oleksandr Abramenko, who won both of Ukraine’s medals over the last two Winter Olympics, is out for the season after a knee ligament tear and said he might not return to competition at all, according to Ukrainian media.

Abramenko, 34, won gold at the 2018 Olympics — Ukraine’s second-ever individual Winter Olympic title after figure skater Oksana Baiul in 1994 — and silver last year.

He competed once this season, placing 10th at a World Cup in Finland on Dec. 4, and then flew with the Ukrainian national team to stay in Utah ahead of World Cups in Canada in January and at the 2002 Olympic venue in Park City this weekend. The area also hosted many Ukraine winter sports athletes this past summer.

Abramenko missed the competition in Canada two weeks ago due to injury and then wasn’t on the start list for today’s aerials event in Park City. He is set to miss the world championships later this month in Georgia (the country, not the state).

Abramenko said he needs surgery, followed by a nine-month rehabilitation process, similar to an operation on his other knee six years ago, according to Ukraine’s public broadcaster. He said he will see how the recovery goes and determine whether to return to the sport at age 35, according to the report.

Abramenko is already the oldest Olympic men’s aerials medalist and come the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games will be older than all but one male aerialist in Olympic history, according to Olympedia.org.

At last year’s Olympics, Abramenko, Ukraine’s flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony, was hugged after the aerials final by Russian Ilya Burov, who finished one spot behind Abramenko for a bronze medal. A week later, Russia invaded Ukraine.

A week after that, Abramenko posed for a photo sitting on a mattress in a Kyiv parking garage with his wife and 2-year-old son published by The New York Times.

“We spend the night in the underground parking in the car, because the air attack siren is constantly on,” Abramenko texted, according to the newspaper. “It’s scary to sleep in the apartment, I myself saw from the window how the air defense systems worked on enemy missiles, and strong explosions were heard.”

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