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French court sentences Russia’s ex-athletics chief Balakhnichev to three years in prison

The sports official was indicted for entering a conspiracy with ex-head of IAAF Lamine Diack and former RusAF senior coach Alexei Melnikov to hide positive doping tests of athlete Lilia Shobukhova
Valentin Balakhnichev Stanislav Krasilnikov/TASS
Valentin Balakhnichev
© Stanislav Krasilnikov/TASS

PARIS, September 16. /TASS/. A court in Paris ruled on Wednesday that Valentin Balakhnichev, a former head of the All-Russia Athletics Federation (RusAF), was found guilty of corruption and sentenced him to three years in prison.

Balakhnichev was at the helm of the All-Russia Athletics Federation from 1990 until 2015, when he was forced to resign following a high-profile corruption scandal involving the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

In January 2016, the IAAF Ethics Commission banned Balakhnichev and Alexei Melnikov, a former RusAF senior coach of long distance walkers and runners, from any sports-related activities.

Balakhnichev was found guilty at that time of entering a conspiracy with ex-head of IAAF Lamine Diack and Melnikov against initiating proceedings on doping-abuse charges in regard to Russian athlete Lilia Shobukhova. The latter allegedly transferred money to the officials at issue to avoid suspension after being caught using performance enhancing drugs.

Balakhnichev and Melnikov filed an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland’s Lausanne against their life-time bans, but the Swiss-based court ruled against upholding their appeals in August 2017.

The French court ordered a two-year prison term for Melnikov, finding him guilty of passive bribery charges.

The court in Paris also ruled on Wednesday to sentence former chief of the world athletics' governing body, Lamine Diack, to four years in prison after finding him guilty of corruption charges.

During the hearings at the French court, Diack confessed that the IAAF hid positive doping test results of Russian athletes in the past for the sake of the financial benefit of the international organization. According to him, sanctions in regard to Russian athletes were not imposed in time in order to maintain a clear reputation of Russia ahead of the 2013 IAAF World Athletics Championship in Moscow.

Diack was in charge of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), which is currently known as World Athletics, between 1999 and 2015. He was placed in custody in France in November 2015 under charges of corruption, abuse of office and money laundering.

French prosecutors claim that the total amount of bribes accepted by Diack, who is currently 87 years old, amounted to 3.45 million euros (over $4 million). His son Papa Massata Diack was also involved in the wrongdoings, according to prosecutors.

The French court stated that two years of the ordered four-year prison term for Diack are suspended and also ordered Diack to pay a fine of 500,000 euros (almost $593,000).