Former track federation president Lamine Diack was sentenced Wednesday to two years in prison for corruption during his nearly 16-year tenure at the IAAF, most notably a scheme that allowed Russian athletes who paid millions in hush money to keep competing when they should have been suspended for doping.
The guilty verdict in a Paris court represented a spectacular fall from grace for the 87-year-old Diack, who was the powerful head of the IAAF from 1999-2015 and mixed with world leaders and was influential in the world of Olympic sports. The court also sentenced Diack to another two years of suspended jail time and fined him €500,000 ($590,000).
Diack was found guilty of multiple corruption charges and of breach of trust but acquitted of a money laundering charge. One of Diack’s lawyers, Simon Ndiaye, called the verdict “unjust and inhuman” and said the court made his client a “scapegoat.” The judge, Rose-Marie Hunault, detailed his role in the payoff scheme, dubbed “full protection,” that squeezed Russian athletes suspected of doping of about €3.2 million ($3.74 million) in hush money.
Among those in court, and thrilled by the verdict, was French marathon runner Christelle Daunay. She competed against one of the Russian athletes, runner Liliya Shobukhova, who later testified to investigators about illicit payments to keep doping quiet.
Speaking after the court awarded her damages totaling €45,000 ($53,000), Daunay described the verdict as a victory for all athletes who were robbed of prizes and results by having to race against competitors who should have been sanctioned but instead paid to benefit from the doping cover-up. “Behind my mask, you can’t see it, but I’m smiling,” she said. “I’m pleased, too, for all the athletes. We have to keep up the fight against doping.” African leaders are finally being held accountable for their actions.