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Doping Scandal Deepens Amid Report Of Solicited Russian Bribe

  • RFE/RL

The Russian doping scandal deepened December 18 after a French newspaper reported that a top international athletics official solicited a 1.5 million euro bribe from Russia in 2011.

Le Monde reported that Former IAAF President Lamine Diack told French police that he asked Valentin Balakhnichev, then president of the Russian track federation. for the money to help finance the opposition in his native Senegal's presidential election in 2012.

The request came at a time when the International Association of Athletics Federations was dealing with several suspected Russian doping cases.

"I told him that to win the election, I needed about 1.5 million euros," Diack told French investigators, according to Le Monde. "He said to me, 'We'll try to find it, no problem'."

"At that time, there were the suspension problems of the Russian athletes a few months ahead of the world championships in Russia. We came to an agreement, Russian-financed. It's Balakhnichev who organized all that," Diack was reported as saying.

Diack's lawyer and French prosecutors were not available for comment to Reuters or AP reporters. Balakhnichev on December 18 referred reporters to his response to the allegations in Le Monde.

Le Monde quoted Balakhnichev as saying: "Neither I nor my federation was implicated in such a discussion or affair with Mr. Diack. This type of business is not in our interest or within our power. We cannot interfere in the internal affairs of Senegal."

French police took Diack into custody in November for questioning. He was later placed under formal investigation on corruption and money-laundering charges. Le Monde said it has seen transcripts of his hearings.

France's national office for financial prosecutions has alleged that Diack, who presided for nearly 16 years at track and field's governing body, pocketed more than 1 million euros in a corrupt scheme to blackmail athletes in exchange for hushing up suspected doping.

The IAAF has suspended Russia from international competition. Its athletes could miss the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August if their federation doesn't take remedial steps against widespread, systematic, and allegedly state-sanctioned doping detailed in a damning report last month from a World Anti-Doping Agency investigative committee.

With reporting by AP and Reuters