Massive sports corruption case involving ex-track boss finally heard at trial

Lamine Diack
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PARIS — A Paris court heard allegations Monday that top athletes hushed-up suspected doping by giving millions of dollars in illicit payoffs to corrupt administrators, as the trial got underway for the disgraced former head of track and field who was once among the most influential leaders in Olympic sports.

Wearing a face mask, Lamine Diack was present in court for the first of six days of hearings that will weigh evidence that his presidency of track and field’s governing body was riddled with corruption and other malfeasance, hurting athletes who raced against competitors who were suspected of doping but have since testified that they paid to keep competing.

Documents seized during the years-long investigation suggested that athletes paid to have doping charges buried or delayed, an illicit mechanism dubbed “full protection,” the court president said, outlining the case with tentacles stretching from Europe to Asia and Africa.

In the audience was a French marathon runner, Christelle Daunay, who competed against one of the athletes, Russian runner Liliya Shobukhova, who later testified to investigators about illicit payments to hush-up doping. Beaten by Shobukhova at the 2011 Chicago Marathon, Daunay is a civil party to the case and is seeking 110,000 euros in damages and compensation for earnings she believes she lost because of the alleged cover-ups by administrators at the IAAF, including Diack.

“It was a whole system and when you see all the money involved, it’s shocking,” Daunay said.

Diack, 87, the IAAF president for nearly 16 years, is being tried for corruption, money laundering and breach of trust. Prosecutors say he directly or indirectly solicited 3.45 million euros ($3.9 million) from athletes suspected by the IAAF of doping who paid to have their names cleared so they could continue competing. About two dozen Russian athletes were reportedly involved. Shobukhova testified that she alone paid the equivalent of 450,000 euros, a large chunk of which was subsequently refunded to her when she was later suspended for doping despite the alleged payoff, the court president detailed.

As IAAF president, Diack oversaw an era when Usain Bolt made track and field wildly popular. But Diack’s legacy, and the IAAF’s credibility, took a beating after he stepped down in 2015. He was arrested in France and investigators revealed accusations of athletes being squeezed for payments.

Gabriel Dolle, who oversaw drug-testing at the IAAF and is accused of taking 190,000 euros in payments, told the court that Diack asked him that suspected doping cases involving Russian athletes be handled “reasonably” to avoid a scandal that could set back IAAF negotiations with sponsors.

Dolle said he agreed to a “special, discreet” treatment for some athletes suspected of doping, which would have involved them being quietly prevented from competing. He said he was “furious” when some of them were then allowed to compete at the London Olympics.

“It was counter to what had been agreed. It was a betrayal,” he said.

Dolle is being tried on a corruption charge. He acknowledged having taken an envelope of money in 2013 from Papa Massata Diack, one of Diack’s sons. Dolle said Papa Massata Diack told him the money is “for what you’re doing for the Russian cases.”

Papa Massata Diack also faces corruption, money laundering and breach of trust charges. He lives in Senegal, which has refused France’s extradition requests for the former IAAF marketing consultant. He did not attend Monday’s hearing.

The court briefly considered but then rejected a request from a lawyer for Papa Massata Diack that the trial be delayed because two of his lawyers couldn’t attend because of coronavirus travel restrictions.

The trial had already been delayed from January to allow the inclusion of new evidence.

Prosecutors have also charged Lamine Diack for involvement in a $1.5 million payment from Russia for use in electoral politics in his native Senegal. Prosecutors say the money was creamed off sponsorship and TV rights deals, negotiated with Russian officials. Prosecutors say the money was to finance presidential and legislative election campaigns in Senegal in 2012, in exchange for slowing down doping cases targeting Russian athletes.

Diack is also accused of having enabled his son to embezzle IAAF sponsorship revenue from Russia’s VTB Bank, Chinese oil firm Sinopec and broadcaster CCTV, South Korean tech giant Samsung and others.

Lamine Diack is expected to testify on Wednesday. He was detained on a trip to France in 2015 and has been forbidden from leaving the country since.

Also on trial on corruption charges is a lawyer who advised Diack, Habib Cisse. Two Russians are being tried in their absence: Valentin Balakhnichev, a former IAAF treasurer, and Alexei Melnikov, a coach who led Russia’s long-distance running program.

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MORE: World 400m champion explains suspension

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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