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

Noah Lyles runs personal best and is coming for Usain Bolt’s world record

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Noah Lyles ran a personal-best time in the 60m on Saturday, then reaffirmed record-breaking intentions for the 100m and, especially, the 200m, where Usain Bolt holds the fastest times in history.

Lyles, the world 200m champion, won the 60m sprint in 6.51 seconds at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston, clipping Trayvon Bromell by two thousandths in his first top-level meet of the year. Bromell, the world 100m bronze medalist, is a past world indoor 60m champion and has a better start than Lyles, which is crucial in a six-second race.

But on Saturday, Lyles ran down Bromell and shaved four hundredths off his personal best. It bodes well for Lyles’ prospects come the spring and summer outdoor season in his better distances — the 100m and 200m.

“This is the moment I’ve been working, like, seven years for,” he said. “We’re not just coming for the 200m world record. We’re coming for all the world records.”

Last July, Lyles broke Michael Johnson‘s 26-year-old American record in the 200m, winning the world title in 19.31 seconds. Only Bolt (19.19) and fellow Jamaican Yohan Blake (19.26) have run faster.

Lyles has since spoken openly about targeting Bolt’s world record from 2009.

How does an indoor 60m time play into that? Well, Lyles said that his success last year sprung from a strong indoor season, when he lowered his personal best in the 60m from 6.57 to 6.56 and then 6.55. He followed that by lowering his personal best in the 200m from 19.50 to 19.31.

He believes that slicing an even greater chunk off his 60m best on Saturday means special things are on the horizon come the major summer meets — the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships in July (on the same Oregon track where he ran the American 200m record) and the world championships in Budapest in August.

After focusing on the 200m last year, Lyles plans to race both the 100m and the 200m this year. He has a bye into the 200m at world championships, so expect him to race the 100m at USATF Outdoors, where the top three are in line to join world champ Fred Kerley on the world team.

Lyles’ personal best in the 100m is 9.86, a tenth off the best times from Kerley, Bromell and 2019 World 100m champ Christian Coleman. Bolt is in his own tier at 9.58.

Also Saturday, Grant Holloway extended a near-nine-year, 50-plus-race win streak in the 60m hurdles, clocking 7.38 seconds, nine hundredths off his world record. Olympic teammate Daniel Roberts was second in 7.46. Trey Cunningham, who took silver behind Holloway in the 110m hurdles at last July’s world outdoor championships, was fifth in 7.67.

Aleia Hobbs won the women’s 60m in 7.02 seconds, one week after clocking a personal-best 6.98 to become the third-fastest American in history after Gail Devers and Marion Jones (both 6.95). Hobbs, 26, placed sixth in the 100m at last July’s world championships.

Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, the Olympic and world 400m hurdles champion competing for the first time since August, and Jamaican Shericka Jackson, the world 200m champion, were ninth and 10th in the 60m heats, just missing the eight-woman final.

In the women’s pole vault, Bridget Williams, seventh at last year’s USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships, upset the last two Olympic champions — American Katie Moon and Greek Katerina Stefanidi. Williams won with a 4.63-meter clearance (and then cleared 4.71 and a personal-best 4.77). Stefanidi missed three attempts at 4.63, while Moon went out at 4.55.

The indoor track and field season continues with the Millrose Games in New York City next Saturday at 4 p.m. ET on NBC, NBCSports.com/live, the NBC Sports app and Peacock.

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Birk Irving, last man on Olympic team, extends breakout season with Mammoth win

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One year ago, Birk Irving was the last man to make the four-man U.S. Olympic ski halfpipe team. Since, he continued to climb the ranks in arguably the nation’s strongest discipline across skiing and snowboarding.

Irving earned his second World Cup win this season, taking the U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain, California, on Friday.

Irving posted a 94-point final run, edging Canadian Brendan Mackay by one point. David Wise, the two-time Olympic champion who won his fifth X Games Aspen title last Sunday, was third.

A tribute was held to 2015 World champion Kyle Smaine, a U.S. halfpipe skier who died in an avalanche in Japan last Sunday.

“We’re all skiing the best we have because we’re all skiing with Kyle in our hearts,” Irving said, according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “We’re skiing for him, and we know he’s looking down on us. We miss you Kyle. We love you. Thank you for keeping us safe in the pipe today.”

Irving also won the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, Colorado, on Dec. 17. Plus, the 23-year-old from Colorado had his best career X Games Aspen finish last Sunday, taking second.

The next major event is the world championships in Georgia (the country, not the state) in early March. Irving was third at the last worlds in 2021, then fifth at the Olympics last February.

The U.S. has been the strongest nation in men’s ski halfpipe since it debuted at the Olympics in 2014. Wise won the first two gold medals. Alex Ferreira won silver and bronze at the last two Olympics. Aaron Blunck is a world champion and X Games champion.

Irving is younger than all of them and has beaten all of them at multiple competitions this season.

New Zealand’s Nico Porteous, the reigning Olympic gold medalist, hasn’t competed since the Games after undergoing offseason knee surgery.

In snowboarding events at Mammoth, Americans Julia Marino and Lyon Farrell earned slopestyle wins by posting the top qualification scores. The finals were canceled due to wind.

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