A Paris court has heard allegations that leading athletes hushed up suspected doping by giving millions of dollars in illicit payoffs to corrupt administrators.
It came as the trial got under way for the disgraced former head of international track and field who was once among the most influential leaders in Olympic sports.
Wearing a face mask, Lamine Diack was 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 wrongdoing, hurting athletes who raced against competitors who were suspected of doping but have since given evidence 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 French marathon runner Christelle Daunay, who competed against Russian athlete Liliya Shobukhova, who later gave evidence 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 (£98,000) 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, who was 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 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 said she paid the equivalent of 450,000 euros (£400,000), a large chunk of which was subsequently refunded when she was later suspended for doping despite the alleged payoff, the court president detailed.
As IAAF chief, 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 (£169,000) in payments, told the court that Diack asked him for suspected doping cases involving Russian athletes to 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 taking an envelope of money in 2013 from Papa Massata Diack, one of Diack’s sons, “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.
Prosecutors have also charged Lamine Diack over involvement in a 1.5 million dollar (£1.1 million) payment from Russia for use in electoral politics in Senegal.
Prosecutors say the money was creamed off sponsorship and TV rights deals negotiated with Russian officials, and 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 give evidence on Wednesday.