9th September 2019

Habib Cissé sanctioned with lifetime ban

Habib Cissé, Legal Advisor to Lamine Diack, former President of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), has been sanctioned with a lifetime ban from athletics for breaches of its Code of Ethics. The IAAF Ethics Board decided not to publish the full reasons for its decision until all police investigations against Cissé and other members of the IAAF’s former management are concluded. Cissé has been convicted of breaching numerous Articles of the IAAF Ethics Code, including failure to cooperate with the IAAF Ethics Board’s investigation.

French prosecutors have been investigating Lamine Diack since August 2015, which resulted in his arrest on 4 November 2015. In January 2016, they asked Interpol to issue a Red Notice summoning Papa Massata Diack – Lamine’s son and an IAAF marketing consultant – for questioning. He remains in Senegal. Last week, it emerged that French prosecutors have widened their investigations to examine whether marketing partners of the IAAF were actively involved in corruption. In February, US prosecutors launched their own investigation. As such, it may be some time before the IAAF is able to publish the full reasoning behind Cissé’s ban. 

The allegations being investigated by French and US authorities are that the IAAF’s former management covered up doping cases in exchange for money, and delayed the announcement of other cases in order to avoid jeopardising sponsorship and TV deals. In more specific terms, it is alleged that money was extorted from Russian distance runner Liliya Shobukhova in order to cover up a 2011 anti-doping rule violation (ADRV); and that other doping positives were delayed in order to avoid jeopardising VTB (ВТБ) Bank’s sponsorship of the Moscow 2013 IAAF World Championships.

In January 2016 Gabriel Dollé, former Director of the IAAF’s Anti-Doping Department, told the IAAF Ethics Commission that Lamine Diack, Cissé and Valentin Balakhnichev – former RusAF President and IAAF Treasurer – had agreed that the handing of Russian doping cases should be delayed in order to avoid jeopardising the VTB deal. It has also been alleged that Cissé was involved in a 4 December 2012 meeting with Andrey Baranov, Shobukhova’s agent, at which it was agreed that her case would be covered up in exchange for money.

At a 2014 meeting, Baranov told Sean Wallace-Jones, the IAAF’s former Senior Manager, Road Running, that Shubokhova had paid ‘half a million dollars to the Russian Federation and a “black man who comes very often to Moscow for the IAAF”’. Wallace-Jones asked whether the man was small or large, and Baranov confirmed the latter. ‘To the best of my knowledge, the only two people he could have referred to are the President’s son, Papa Massata, and a consulting legal counsel, Habib Cissé’.

At a CAS hearing into his appeal against the IAAF Ethics Board devision to issue him with a life ban, Papa Massata Diack produced documentation (PDF below) which suggests he did not travel to Moscow until 6 December for a meeting with Balakhnichev and Cissé. Baranov’s evidence to the IAAF Ethics Board does not actually claim that a meeting took place between himself and PMD. 

‘On 26 November 2012, I received a three-minute telephone call from Mr Melnikov requesting that I attend a meeting in Moscow on 4 December 2012 with Mr Melnikov and…Valentin Balakhnichev’, it reads. ‘At Mr Melnikov’s instruction, I met him in the Baltschug Kempinski Hotel lobby on 4 December 2012. Mr Melnikov and I sat in one section of the lobby, while three other men sat together at a table across the lobby having their own meeting…President Balakhnichev came over to our table and said it was no longer necessary for me to meet anyone. President Balakhnichev appeared as though he had concluded his meeting with the other two men, and appeared to be on his way out of the hotel lobby.’

Papa Massata Diack alleges that Baranov got him confused with Cissé. “I think that the evidence given by Baranov that the money was given to a black man who came to Moscow often, he wanted to pass the buck to somebody”, he argues. “I was the obvious target. At the CAS hearings, I showed them that they have no evidence against me. I never met him. I never met the athlete’s representative or the athlete. 

“At the CAS hearing, the coach – Alexei Melnikov – said that he had never met me. They say that I was giving him money. Where did I get this money from? From whom? They checked my travel records and I have done 18 trips in Russia from 2011 until 2013. They have not seen any record of me meeting a coach or an athlete. However, reports have said that money was given to a lawyer. It is so obvious who this person is.”

“All I knew is that this matter would not be published until after the Moscow World Championships, because that was the agreement made back in 2011”, admitted Papa Massata Diack. “They didn’t want to affect the negotiations with VTB or the negotiations with the IOC for the TV revenues from the Olympic Games sharing pool. That person [Cissé] was responsible for managing that process. He was the legal advisor to the President. He managed, subtly, not to be investigated by the Ethics Board.”

In April last year, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was forced to formally acknowledge a 31 January 2018 decision of the Paris District Court, which found that it and its Founding President, Dick Pound, had undermined the presumption of innocence applicable to Cissé in its second Independent Commission Report. This was because Cissé was named as a ‘co-conspirator’ involved in he extortion of money from athletes in exchange for covering up positive doping tests. WADA failed to overturn a verdict in the Paris Court of Appeal, which ruled that WADA and Pound must pay €8,000 damages and €10,000 legal costs. 

WADA appears to have removed such acknowledgement from its internet site. The IAAF Ethics Board decision is careful to state that  Cissé ‘continues to enjoy the presumption of innocence’ until police investigations have concluded. However its decision to issue him with a life ban, taken together with WADA’s decision to remove acknowledgement of his presumption of innocence from its internet site, would appear to suggest that Cissé’s luck has run out.

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