The sight of former head of International Association of Athletics Federations (now World Athletics) Lamine Diack in the dock should be a chilling reminder to Kenyan sports administrators that although the wheels of justice often move slowly, time often catches up with corrupt sports administrators.
The 87-year-old Senegalese has been accused of, among other things, delaying punishment for Russian athletes who failed doping tests in return for payment. Diack has said he delayed punishing the said Russian athletes so as to ensure that talks with prospective sponsors remained on course.
Watching TV footage from the court session, Diack cut a lonely image of a venerable African statesman, grey hair and all, being unnecessarily being dragged through the courts instead of being left to enjoy peaceful retirement in the company of his grandsons. But appearances can be deceptive.
The long-serving sports administrator (he led IAAF from 1999 to 2015), faces charges of "giving and receiving bribes", "breach of trust" and "organised money laundering".
He has told French prosecutors that he had agreed to delay and stagger investigations into suspected Russian doping cases for the sake of the sport's "financial health".
Under his watch, bans were delayed in order to allow the Russian athletes concerned to compete in the 2012 London Olympics and the World Athletics Championships in Moscow the following year.
According to French prosecutors, Diack demanded Sh390 million (roughly 3.9 million dollars) from Russian athletes so as to have their names cleared. He also allegedly obtained Sh153 million from Russia to help fund president Macky Sall’s campaign in 2012. Prosecutors are pushing for Diack to be imprisoned for five years and be fined a maximum of (Sh59.7 million) 500,000 Euros.
The corruption allegations have also touched on his son Papa Massata Diack, a former marketing consultant for the IAAF, who is also on trial but he remains in Senegal.
But Diack is not alone. Sepp Blatter’s 17-year leadership as Fifa president ended in disgrace after the world football governing body’s ethics committee banned him for eight years following corruption allegations against him.
Blatter allegedly signed a contract that was ‘unfavourable’ to Fifa and made ‘disloyal payment’ to Uefa president Michel Platini. Platini also got an eight-year ban which he appealed and lost.
Blatter, who remains banned since 2015, denied any wrongdoing.
Then there is also the case of Juan Antonio Samaranch, the former president of the International Olympics Committee. Samaranch, who died on April 21, 2020, was IOC Vice President from 1974 to 1978 before being was elected president in 1980. The final years of his leadership were marked by a corruption scandal that saw 10 members forced out and many others issued with warnings in the 1999 votes-for-gifts scandal at a time when American city Salt Lake successfully bid for 2002 Winter Olympics.
Samaranch left the organization in 2001 but the scandal had besmirched his legacy.
Back home, former Athletics Kenya president Isaiah Kiplagat alongside AK Vice President David Okeyo and former treasurer Joseph Kinyua were suspended in 2015 by IAAF Ethics Board for 180 days after being accused of subverting anti-doping processes and potentially diverting sponsorship funds from Nike.
In 2018, two years after Kiplagat died while still serving his suspension, Okeyo was banned from all athletics activities for life and ordered to pay Sh5 million fine.
That is as far as accountability goes in the scandal-ridden world of Kenyan sports administration where officials only become active when competitions (mostly international events) are a round the corner.
Dormant federations, some of which have not held elections for close to a decade, suddenly spring to life when major competitions such as the Olympics, Commonwealth Games, Africa Cup of Nations or All Africa Games (African Championships) are around the corner for purposes of drawing allowances and joyriding.
As soon as these competitions are held, the officials retreat and wait for another international competition before they become active again. In between, there is a lot of financial impropriety lack of meritocracy in selection of national teams, and ineptitude.
Although global associations are known to stand with heads of their affiliates, it is time global federations extended the fight against corruption and poor leadership at the top to their affiliates. We need to see this this in football, volleyball, swimming, boxing and in all the federations.
Mwamba is a Senior Sports Sub-editor at Nation Media Group. [email protected]