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Former World Athletics Chief On Trial Over Russian Doping Coverup

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International Association of Athletics Federations President Lamine Diack gestures during a press conference in Beijing in August 2015.

The corruption and money-laundering trial of some of track and field's top administrators, including the former head of the athletics' world governing body, has opened in Paris.

Prosecutors allege that Lamine Diack solicited payments totaling more than $3.3 million from Russian athletes to cover up allegations of suspected doping and allow the athletes to continue competing.

He is charged with giving and receiving bribes, breach of trust, and organized money laundering and is facing a potential 10-year prison sentence.

The scandal resulted in the Russian team being banned from the 2016 Summer Olympics and the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Diack, who was present in court on June 8, has denied wrongdoing, and his lawyers have said the accusations are baseless. The hearing is set to last until June 18 in the French capital.

The case is being pursued by the French authorities because the alleged money laundering happened in France, where Lamine Diack has been under house arrest since the investigation began.

The Senegalese presided over the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), now World Athletics, for 16 years until 2015.

Investigators at the French National Financial Prosecutor's Office describe a web of corruption in world athletics under his leadership.

The trial had been due to start in January but was postponed after new documents containing testimony from his son and co-defendant, Papa Massata Diack, were submitted to the court. The younger Diack worked as a marketing consultant for the IAAF.

Senegal has refused to extradite Papa Massata Diack, who has refused to cooperate with French authorities. He also faces charges of money laundering, corruption, and breach of trust, according to the indictment, and will be tried in absentia.

Two Russians are also on trial, but were not present at the June 8 hearing: Valentin Balakhnichev, a former IAAF treasurer, and Aleksei Melnikov, a coach who led Russia's long-distance running program.

Another co-defendant, Habib Cisse, who served as Diack's legal adviser at the IAAF, is suspected of having acted as an intermediary between the IAAF and Russian athletics and having received hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Cisse was present in court on June 8.

With reporting by AFP and Reuters
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