Lamine Diack, former all-powerful head of world athletics and emblem of corruption in sport, dies at 88 years of age

World Athletics, the federation he presided over for 16 years between 1999 and 2015, did not reflect on its website the death of its former top leader.

FILE PHOTO: Former President of International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Lamine Diack arrives for his trial at the Paris courthouse, France, January 13, 2020. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Former President of International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Lamine Diack arrives for his trial at the Paris courthouse, France, January 13, 2020. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo

Lamine Diack, for years the world’s top athletics boss and the linchpin of some of the most resounding corruption scandals in the history of sport, died Friday at the age of 88 at his home in Senegal.

“He died at home around 2 a.m. of a natural death,” his son, Papa Massata Diack, told Reuters news agency.

World Athletics, the federation he presided over for 16 years between 1999 and 2015, did not reflect on its website the death of its former top leader.

Diack succeeded Italian Primo Nebiolo, who led the organization for 18 years between 1981 and 1999, as president of the then IAAF.

Accusations of corruption were almost permanent companions of the Senegalese throughout his career at the top of world sports leadership. He was an IOC member for 15 years, until 2014.

The IOC ethics commission formally warned Diack in 2011 after a British television program detailed payments from the swiss sports marketing agency ISL to Diack in 1993 amounting to $30,000 and 30,000 French francs. At the time Diack was a vice president at the IAAF, which was negotiating a deal with the marketing agency.

In 2020, he was found guilty of money laundering in a trial that investigated the Russian athletes’ doping scheme. A French court sentenced him to four years in prison, but Diack managed to serve it under house arrest at his home in Senegal. A collection of 500,000 euros organized by a former goalkeeper of the Senegalese national soccer team, Cheickh Seck, allowed him to return to his country.

Diack had collected millionaire sums to hide the doping of Russian athletes and allow them to participate in the London 2012 Olympic Games and the Moscow 2013 World Championships.

Sergio Cabral, former governor of Rio de Janeiro state, claimed in Brazilian courts that Diack charged $2 million to secure between four and six IOC member votes for Rio in its bid to host the 2016 Olympics.

Rio won that venue in 2009 in Copenhagen with a clear lead over Madrid in the final round. Carlos Nuzman, head of that bid and later of the organizing committee for the Games, as well as of the Brazilian Olympic Committee, was sentenced days ago to 30 years and 11 months in prison for a proven vote-buying scheme.

During the trial, Cabral described how things happened.

“Nuzman came to me and said, ‘Sérgio, I want to tell you that the IAAF President, Lamine Diack, is a person that is open to undue advantages. He can secure five or six votes. In exchange, he wants $1.5 million’”.

Cabral also said that another US$500,000 was paid to Papa Massata Diack with the intention of securing three more votes of IOC members.

According to prosecutors, in exchange for the money, the Senegalese would vote for Rio as the Olympic venue and together with his son, an IAAF marketing consultant, would also influence other African IOC members to do the same.

“With the death of Lamine Diack, Senegal loses one of its most illustrious sons,” Senegals’s President, Macky Salt, said on his twitter account.

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