Dubai: Imagine to what extent a father can go even in the twilight of his life to chastise his own son in public. Go no further, but listen to former IAAF President Lamine Diack criticise his son during his corruption trial in Paris by branding him “a thug”.
The 87-year-old Diack made the remarks about his son Papa Massata under questioning, after claiming he only learnt from investigators that his son — who wasn’t present in person at the trial — was involved in doping files.
Appearing before the 32nd Chamber of the Paris criminal court, the former boss of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) — now called World Athletics — spoke in court about alleged corruption within the organisation during his tenure from 1999 to 2015.
The degree to which Diack was aware of the alleged squeezing of hush-money from Russian athletes suspected of doping still remained unclear from the former IAAF president’s often confused, contradictory and uncertain testimony on the opening day, on Thursday.
Frequently, Diack seemed not to have fully understood or heard the lengthy and detailed questions posed by the panel of judges. Diack, however, acknowledged that he had intervened in the management of suspected cases of doping by Russian athletes, giving instructions that they be handled in a way that would avoid a scandal that could disrupt negotiations with a Russian sponsor and tarnish the 2013 IAAF World Championships held in Moscow.
Both father and son are on trial on charges of corruption, money laundering and breach of trust, with Papa Massata being tried in absence after he fled in 2015 to his native Senegal.
The duo is accused of having conspired together in a scheme that allegedly squeezed millions of dollars in hush-money from athletes, who paid to avoid doping sanctions and keep competing at important championships including the 2012 London Olympics.
Asked by the chief judge about his son’s role during his entire IAAF tenure, Diack, at first, gave an inaudible response before saying: “He conducted himself like a thug.”
Under questioning, Diack refused to establish a clear link between the management of Russian doping cases and funding of $1.5 million (Dh5.48 million) to contribute to the defeat of his rival Abdoulaye Wade in the 2012 Presidential election in Senegal.
In relation to the management of the doping cases, Diack told the court that he made the decision to spread out disciplinary sanctions against Russia, claiming he did so in order to protect the IAAF’s finances.
“The financial health had to be safeguarded, and I was ready to make this compromise,” Diack told the hearing.
Outside the courtroom, Diack’s lawyer Simon Ndiaye insisted that his client wanted to merely “clear his name” and denied suggestions that he was unwilling to answer questions about the case. “I’m not a doctor but I think that because of his age, there are things he doesn’t fully understand in the questions that are asked of him,” Ndiaye said.
The other defendants in the case are Lamine’s son Massata, Lamine Diack’s former adviser Habib Cisse, Gabriel Dolle, the former anti-doping chief at the IAAF, former ARAF President Balakhnichev and Alexei Melnikov, the former head Russian athletics distance coach.
The case will continue with the hearings scheduled to last at least six days in Paris.