McLaren report to FIBA confirms abuses in the Mali women’s basketball program

The investigation could not “independently verify” allegations against FIBA president Hamane Niang, who has resumed his duties after stepping aside during the probe.

FILE PHOTO: Lawyer Richard McLaren poses for a portrait after delivering a report for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), in London, Britain December 9, 2016. REUTERS/Neil Hall/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Lawyer Richard McLaren poses for a portrait after delivering a report for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), in London, Britain December 9, 2016. REUTERS/Neil Hall/File Photo

Professor Richard McLaren and his team at McLaren Global Sport Solutions (MGSS), who were supported by Harod Associates, release a scathing report after investigating allegations of abuse within the Fédération Malienne de Basketball (FMBB).

McLaren, FIBA’s independent integrity officer, was looking into charges of abuses which included sexual assault, intimidation, and both individual and federation wide negligence to safeguard players from physical and mental harm. The allegations were brought to light in June by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and The New York Times (NYT).

It was also alleged that Hamane Niang, President of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), had knowledge of the abuse taking place within the FMBB, and failed to prevent such abuse from taking place.

In his report, McLaren listed the various allegations made against individuals within the FMBB. Those concerned included women’s national team coach Cheick Oumar Sissoko, women’s U18/U19 national team coach Amadou Bamba, and FMBB Vice President Amadou Ario Maiga.

Among the key findings of the report were, that “The independent investigation was obstructed including: (1) Various activities that constitute witness and victim intimidation; (2) Evasive, contradictory, and untruthful testimony by certain officials of the FMBB; (3) Interference of the FMBB through initiating their own internal investigation; and (4) Failure to provide certain documents requested by the MIIT.”

Moreover, “Safeguarding efforts and policies of the FMBB, both historically and currently, are wholly insufficient and not in compliance with Article 1-155 of the FIBA Internal Regulations, as well as any reasonable international standard related to child protection.”

(FIBA)
(FIBA)

“The FMBB failed in their obligation to understand and comply with FIBA’s safeguarding regulations as set forth in Article 1-129 of the Internal Regulations, failed to: ‘guarantee the players conditions of safety, mental and physical well-being, and medical care appropriate for basketball’ as required by Article 1-90 of the FIBA Internal Regulations,” and “failed to: ‘promote an environment that is safe and enjoyable and shall empower and educate Vulnerable Groups on their rights” as required by Article 1-129 of the FIBA Internal Regulations.”

It was concluded that, “players on the U-19 Women’s Team who competed at the 2021 FIBA U-19 Women’s World Cup in Hungary were victims of psychological abuse that led to feelings of guilt; they were told the reason for the team’s delay was their fault and a form of retribution for the suspension of President Maiga.”

In terms of the allegations against individuals, it was found that, “Coach Bamba sexually harassed and abused multiple players including direct witness testimony of such abuse. He also retaliated against certain players who he sexually harassed or abused by not selecting them to compete on Women’s National Teams. Intervention by President Maiga reversed decisions in two separate instances.”

“President Harouna Maiga lied to investigators about his prior knowledge of sexual abuse as demonstrated by the evidence gathered by the MIIT. Furthermore, he engaged in efforts that impeded the investigation.”

“Assistant Coach Ms. Fanta Diallou failed in her duty of responsibility and position of trust to report sexual harassment and abuse reported to her by players in contravention of Article 1-95 of the FIBA Internal Regulations that: ‘Basketball Parties shall have an obligation to immediately report to FIBA suspected violations of the Code of conduct.’”

“Former FMBB President Jean-Claude Sidibé continues to yield influence in the FMBB including inappropriate activities alleged by witnesses.”

The report was also “unable to independently verify the HRW and NYT allegations against Cheick Oumar Sissoko aka ‘Yankee,’ although the hearsay evidence provided by multiple witnesses is concerning.”

“The MIIT was unable to independently verify the HRW and NYT allegations against Amadou Ario Maiga, although the hearsay evidence is concerning.”

Concerning the allegations against FIBA President Hamane Niang, “the MIIT was unable to independently verify the HRW and NYT allegations concerning FIBA President Hamane Niang, specifically as it relates to his knowledge of an alleged incident of harassment perpetrated by Cheick Oumar Sissoko aka “Yankee” at a nightclub.”

FIBA president Hamane Niang elected in 2019. (FIBA)
FIBA president Hamane Niang elected in 2019. (FIBA)

“The MIIT received no direct evidence from anyone about President Niang’s knowledge of alleged sexual harassment within the FMBB.”

Overall, the report found “an institutionalised acceptance of the abuse of players exists within the FMBB and neither action nor effort has been attempted to recognise or correct this.”

In a statement regarding the report, Professor McLaren said, “Although we could not independently verify some of the allegations in the New York Times article, which will be disappointing to many, we did uncover sexual abuse, intimidation and obstruction perpetrated by FMBB officials.”

“We delivered the report to FIBA and the investigation is closed. It is now incumbent on FIBA to act.”

FIBA also released a statement in relation to the publication of the report. It read, “In addition to the suspension on June 14 of coach Amadou Bamba, coach Oumar Sissoko, official Hario Maiga and on July 23 of FMBB President Harouna Maiga, after carefully reviewing the document and following the recommendation of the Integrity Officer, FIBA will be issuing additional suspensions against three other members of the FMBB, pending the opening of disciplinary proceedings: coach Fanta Diallou, Secretary General Seydou Maiga and Vice President Amadou Traore. Further decisions will be taken in due course by the competent FIBA bodies.”

“FIBA confirms that the independent report does not provide any evidence that supports the allegations that FIBA President Hamane Niang knew or should have known about the sexual abuses in the Mali Basketball Federation.”

Furthermore, FIBA also confirmed that the organization plans to launch a global players safeguarding initiative in the near future. FIBA has also taken actions to safeguard U16 and U19 players on Mali’s national women’s teams during tournaments played this year.

President Niang also released a statement after the publication of the report. It read, “This investigation is of paramount importance and I would like to express my personal and unconditional support to the victims. These offences must be duly prosecuted by FIBA through independent procedures. Since the Integrity Officer has confirmed my innocence, I will now resume my official duties with FIBA.”

Human Rights Watch and Sport & Rights Alliance, which issued open letters to FIBA in June and July urging them to investigate abuse claims and take necessary action to safeguard players, have yet to comment on the key findings and recommendations of the report.

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