A chronicle that beggars belief

The indicment against Lamine Diack Sportschau 30.06.2019 06:06 Min. Verfügbar bis 30.06.2020 Das Erste

Charges brought against Diack

A chronicle that beggars belief

Von Hajo Seppelt, Nick Butler and Jörg Mebus

The Paris prosecutor’s office has spent four years investigating the athletics scandals surrounding former president of the world governing body of athletics, Lamine Diack, and his son Papa Massata. The ARD doping editorial team has now acquired the 90-page bill of indictment. It documents the shocking actions of unscrupulous officials that will occupy world sports for a long time to come.

At first sight, the Parisian Élysées Horlogerie on the rue de Berri does not give the impression of having once played a role in one of the biggest scandals in the history of world sports. Despite the stylish red awnings over the fine wooden framed shop windows, the tasteful watchmakers at house number 14 has a somewhat unassuming appearance, and yet it was the favourite shop of one of the most dazzling characters who pulled the strings behind the scenes of international sport. Papa Massata Diack started frequenting the boutique at random intervals from 2011. Time and again, the stout man from Senegal was unable to resist the charm of the exorbitant timepieces showcased in the luxurious display cabinets: the Élysées Horlogerie is said to have pocketed an incredible sum of €1.7 million from Papa Massata Diack over the years.

Just one of the many absurd episodes in the scandal surrounding the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), ex-President Lamine Diack and his son Papa Massata, who allegedly preferred to go on shopping sprees at the watchmaker’s boutique close to the Arc de Triomphe around the time of major sporting events. That is how it was put by the Parisian special investigators, who have been delving into the Diacks and the abyss of the IAAF for four years – and who connected the dots between the purchase of the watches and attempted bribery. They have now brought charges. The ARD doping editorial team has a copy of the 90-page document.

The presiding investigating magistrate Renaud van Ruymbeke and his colleagues Stéphanie Tacheau and Charlotte Bilger have done a tremendous job. The offences, some already publicly known, were exposed by investigations carried out by the ARD doping editorial team. The list of offences, drawn up meticulously by the investigators, reads like a chronicle that beggars belief. The charges include active and passive corruption, organised money laundering and breach of trust.

“Incompatible with the ideals of sport”

Facing trial besides 86-year-old Lamine Diack, under house arrest in Paris since 2015, and Papa Massata, the subject of an international arrest warrant after fleeing to his home country Senegal, are four more individuals: Valentin Balakhnichev, former president of the All-Russia Athletic Federation whilst also holding office as Treasurer of the IAAF, Alexei Melnikov, Russia’s ex-head coach, Gabriel Dollé, former Director of the IAAF’s Anti-Doping Department, and Habib Cisse, former legal adviser to Diack. The unscrupulous officials’ actions could well keep world sports on tenterhooks for years to come.

“On a scale of zero to ten, where ten is the biggest scandal in international sport, I would rate this a ten,” stated Clemens Prokop, former President of the German Athletics Association (DLV), who repeatedly came across the Diacks in his 16 years in office. He considers the “entire spectrum” of the case to be decisive. “Athletes are blackmailed, events are postponed, vote buying goes on – all those things are done that are completely incompatible with the ideals of sport,” remarked Prokop. Ever since preparing the 2009 World Championships in Berlin together with Lamine Diack, Prokop says that has was suspicious of the Diack “band”. And the shady dealings they got up to in the background are much worse than Prokop had ever feared.

The Diacks coerced money from athletes found guilty of doping, mainly from Russia. Assisted by IAAF anti-doping expert Dollé, their cases were hushed up against payment of high six-figure sums up to €700,000 in some cases. The Diacks managed to extort a total of €3.45 million in this way. The disgraced Africans also acquired money from crooked licensing agreements and sponsoring deals with Russian broadcasters and banks, money which they used for their own projects. For election campaigns in their home country, for example. In 2012, they helped “their” candidate Macky Sall to victory in the presidential election over incumbent Abdoulaye Wade with a $1.5 million donation. The investigating magistrates shed light on all of the incidents, down to the last detail,. The accused, none of whom were available for comment, may yet object to the charges. The trial is expected to begin in around six months.

Explosive email

The report also indicates that British athletes may also have evaded a number of doping cases. An email from Balakhnichev, which he sent to Diack’s confidant Cisse in July 2014, shortly before everything came to light, reveals explosive content. IAAF representatives had allegedly showed him a list of athletes whose blood passports showed clear signs of doping violations. “We were amazed to find on this list certain elite athletes from Great Britain, including the Olympic medallist and sporting icon of this particular country,” the Russian IAAF Treasurer wrote. He did not mention any names. “The question we ask ourselves, is why the IAAF has not urged British athletics to sanction those athletes,” Balakhnichev added.

French authorities investigating Tokyo 2020 bid

Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020: Japan's bid is now in the centre of investigations by French authorities.

Just a few days before the ARD doping editorial team was able to view the bill of indictment, IAAF President Sebastian Coe, who succeeded Lamine Diack in 2015, stated in an interview at the IOC session in Lausanne that the French investigation would “inevitably” have a further impact on the IAAF. “But my instinct tells me that it will not just be the IAAF,” Lord Coe added.

The Diack affair has already had repercussions, also outside track and field. The Diack affair has brought down International Olympic Committee members: honorary member Carlos Nuzman, the man behind the 2016 Rio Olympics, as well as the members Frankie Fredericks and Tsunekazu Takeda, leader of the Japanese Olympic Committee and the 2020 Olympic bid in Tokyo, who has since stepped down. All received money that can be traced back to Papa Massata. Most recently, a sum of €1.8 million was transferred from the Japanese capital onto an account of “Black Tidings”, a company associated with Diack junior.

“The roles were clearly defined: the father led the organisation, and the son negotiated contracts on his father’s behalf. This interaction between father and son alone enabled the son to get rich over the years with this father’s support,” the investigators wrote in their report.

It is not yet clear how long and how intensely the Diack case and French investigations will occupy the world of sport. Michel Platini, former President of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), has also been questioned by the Paris state prosecutors about possible bribery in connection with Qatar’s successful bid to host the 2022 World Cup – perhaps the most explosive part of the investigations. Signs of corruption are also apparent in the investigation files relating to this year’s World Athletics Championships, to be hosted in the Qatari capital Doha.

It could be that the IOC also has a problem of its own making. The 2022 Summer Youth Olympics were awarded to Dakar, of all places, the Diacks’ home town, even though Senegal persistently refuses to extradite Diack junior. It seems that election campaigner Papa Massata can depend on his President. But he won’t be visiting his beloved watchmakers in the rue de Berri for quite some time.

Stand: 30.06.2019, 16:36