Former IAAF president’s son ‘very active’ in corruption

Lamine Diack
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PARIS (AP) — French authorities investigating former IAAF President Lamine Diack now say one of his sons was also “very active” in an alleged “system of corruption” that sought to blackmail athletes, with demands of money to hush-up suspected doping.

In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press, France’s national financial prosecutor said investigators have verified that Diack, who presided for nearly 16 years at track and field’s governing body, pocketed “more than 1 million euros” ($1.1 million) from the alleged cash-for-silence scheme.

Evidence from the World Anti-Doping Agency that triggered the French probe suggests that a Turkish athlete, as well as athletes from Russia, was a victim of a blackmail attempt allegedly involving Diack’s family, prosecutor Eliane Houlette said in the AP interview in her Paris office.

According to WADA’s findings, at least one of Diack’s sons approached Turkish runner Asli Cakir Alptekin a few months after she won gold in the 1,500 meters at the 2012 London Olympics and suggested she could pay to quash a doping positive.

“It was a sort of blackmail,” Houlette said. “She refused.”

Alptekin was subsequently banned for eight years, for the second anti-doping rule violation of her career, and forfeited her gold in a settlement with the IAAF concluded in August this year.

“This athlete’s case figures in the report that the World Anti-Doping Agency gave us,” Houlette told the AP. But Alptekin hasn’t yet been interviewed by three French investigating magistrates now seeking to determine exactly how many athletes were approached, how much they paid and whether the elder Diack, in his role as IAAF president, simply turned a blind eye or was an active organizer.

A former long jumper who stepped down in August from the IAAF, Diack was taken into police custody last Sunday and released two days later after being formally placed under investigation on preliminary charges of corruption and money laundering.

His legal adviser at the IAAF, Habib Cisse, was also detained and charged with corruption. So, too, was Gabriel Dolle, a doctor who managed the anti-doping program at the IAAF.

In the AP interview, Houlette said the son, Papa Massata Diack, who worked under his father as an IAAF marketing consultant, is also thought to have played a “very active” role in the alleged corruption.

“We didn’t arrest Mr. Diack’s son because he didn’t come to Paris when he was meant to. But he is also implicated in this affair,” she said. “We haven’t had the opportunity to arrest him in France. We would have done so if we could.”

Papa Massata Diack has a sports consultancy company in Dakar, Senegal. Repeated phone calls on Friday morning to office and mobile phone numbers that he listed in earlier communications with the AP either went unanswered or did not ring through. The AP sent an email seeking comment to the address he used earlier this year to write to the news agency but got no immediate response.

At least six athletes, for the moment seemingly mostly Russians, are thought to have been told that their suspected doping could be hushed up, allowing them to continue competing, if they paid.

“It’s a form of blackmail when you say to someone: ‘Pay or you can’t compete,'” said Houlette. “I don’t know if we can call it a mafia system but it is a system of corruption. It’s extremely serious.”

Asked how much Diack senior is believed to have pocketed, she replied: “From what we’ve verified, it is more than 1 million euros and this money seemingly transmitted through the Russian athletics federation.”

“Because the investigations have just started, we cannot affirm that all this money came from payments from Russian athletes,” she said. “What is certain is that Mr. Cisse, the legal adviser to Mr. Diack, traveled to Russia and gave to the Russian federation the list of Russian athletes suspected of doping and, in exchange for sums of money, these athletes weren’t sanctioned.”

One of the conditions of Diack’s release on bail is that he is not allowed to have any contact with Papa Massata, she said.

On Monday, a WADA commission that has been investigating allegations of widespread doping and cover-ups in Russian sport will announce the findings of its 11-month probe, which was prompted by a damning German television documentary.

The French probe and allegations against Diack are severe early tests for the presidency of his successor at the IAAF, Sebastian Coe. With football officials at FIFA also facing criminal probes in the United States and Switzerland, two of the most powerful governing bodies, supposed guardians for two of the most popular sports, are now operating under dark clouds.

Houlette said sports need stricter internal regulation and “have become totally gangrenous with all this money.”

“Most of all, stop this practice of electing federation presidents for life, either nationally or internationally,” she said. “Sports need democracy.”

MORE TRACK AND FIELD: Lamine Diack under investigation for doping cover-up

Kenenisa Bekele still eyes Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon world record, but a duel must wait

Kenenisa Bekele
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LONDON — Kenenisa Bekele made headlines last week by declaring “of course I am the best” long distance runner ever. But the Ethiopian was fifth-best at Sunday’s London Marathon, finishing 74 seconds behind Kenya’s Amos Kipruto.

Bekele, 40, clocked 2:05:53, the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. He was with the lead pack until being dropped in the 21st mile.

But Bekele estimated he could have run 90 to 120 seconds faster had he not missed parts of six weeks of training with hip and joint injuries.

“I expect better even if the preparation is short,” he said. “I know my talent and I know my capacity, but really I couldn’t achieve what I expect.”

Bekele is the second-fastest marathoner in history behind Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, who broke his own world record by clocking 2:01:09 at the Berlin Marathon last week.

“I am happy when I see Eliud Kipchoge run that time,” Bekele said. “It motivates all athletes who really expect to do the same thing.”

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Bekele’s best time was within two seconds of Kipchoge’s previous world record (2:01:39). He described breaking Kipchoge’s new mark as the “main goal” for the rest of his career.

“Yes, I hope, one day it will happen, of course,” Bekele said. “With good preparation, I don’t know when, but we will see one more time.”

Nobody has won more London Marathons than Kipchoge, a four-time champion who set the course record (2:02:37) in 2019. But the two-time Olympic marathon champion did not run this year in London, as elite marathoners typically choose to enter one race each spring and fall.

Bekele does not know which race he will enter in the spring. But it will not be against Kipchoge.

“I need to show something first,” Bekele said. “I need to run a fast time. I have to check myself. This is not enough.”

Kipchoge will try to become the first runner to win three Olympic marathon titles at the Paris Games. Bekele, who will be 42 in 2024, has not committed to trying to qualify for the Ethiopian team.

“There’s a long time to go before Paris,” Bekele said. “At this moment I am not decided. I have to show something.”

So who is the greatest long distance runner ever?

Bekele can make a strong case on the track:

Bekele
Four Olympic medals (three gold)
Six World Championship medals (five gold)
Former 5000m and 10,000m world-record holder

Kipchoge
Two Olympic medals
Two World Championship medals (one gold)

But Kipchoge can make a strong case on the pavement:

Bekele
Second-fastest marathoner in history
Two World Marathon Major victories

Kipchoge
Four of the five best marathon times in history
Two-time Olympic marathon champion
12 World Marathon Major victories

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Yalemzerf Yehualaw, Amos Kipruto win London Marathon

Yalemzerf Yehualaw
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Ethiopian Yalemzerf Yehualaw became the youngest female runner to win the London Marathon, while Kenyan Amos Kipruto earned the biggest victory of his career in the men’s race.

Yehualaw, 23, clocked 2:17:26, prevailing by 41 seconds over 2021 London champ Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya.

Yehualaw tripped and fell over a speed bump around the 20-mile mark. She quickly rejoined the lead pack, then pulled away from Jepkosgei by running the 24th mile in a reported 4:43, which converts to 2:03:30 marathon pace; the women’s world record is 2:14:04.

Yehualaw and Jepkosgei were pre-race favorites after world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya withdrew Monday with a right hamstring injury.

On April 24, Yehualaw ran the fastest women’s debut marathon in history, a 2:17:23 to win in Hamburg, Germany.

She has joined the elite tier of female marathoners, a group led by Kenyan Peres Jepchirchir, the reigning Olympic, New York City and Boston champion. Another Ethiopian staked a claim last week when Tigist Assefa won Berlin in 2:15:37, shattering Yehualaw’s national record.

Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first Olympic women’s marathon champion in 1984, finished Sunday’s race in 3:20:20 at age 65.

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Kipruto, 30, won the men’s race in 2:04:39. He broke free from the leading group in the 25th mile and crossed the finish line 33 seconds ahead of Ethiopian Leul Gebresilase, who said he had hamstring problems.

Kipruto, one of the pre-race favorites, had never won a major marathon but did finish second behind world record holder Eliud Kipchoge in Tokyo (2022) and Berlin (2018) and third at the world championships (2019) and Tokyo (2018).

Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest marathoner in history, was fifth after being dropped in the 21st mile. His 2:05:53 was the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. Bekele ran his personal best at the 2019 Berlin Marathon — 2:01:41 — and has not run within four minutes of that time since.

The major marathon season continues next Sunday with the Chicago Marathon, headlined by a women’s field that includes Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich and American Emily Sisson.

London returns next year to its traditional April place after being pushed to October the last three years due to the pandemic.

MORE: Bekele looks ahead to Kipchoge chase after London Marathon

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