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Lamine Diack, Olympics Power Broker Convicted of Taking Bribes, Dies at 88

Lamine Diack, the former president of the world governing body for track and field, who was convicted last year of corruption for receiving bribes linked to a Russian doping scandal, died at his home on Friday in Senegal. He was 88.

His death was confirmed by his son, Papa Massata Diack.

Mr. Diack was for decades one of the most powerful men in sports as a member of the International Olympic Committee and as the head of the International Association of Athletics Federations, the track and field governing body then known by its initials, I.A.A.F., which he headed from 1999 to 2015. (The I.A.A.F. has since been renamed World Athletics.)

Gray-haired and frequently dressed in expensive suits or long, flowing robes, Mr. Diack rubbed shoulders with world leaders, star athletes and top sports officials during a career that saw track and field’s fortunes and prominence grow, thanks to Olympians like Usain Bolt.

Shadowed for years by whispers of corruption, Mr. Diack saw his legacy become mired in disgrace in November 2015 after he was detained in France over accusations of corruption and money laundering, and of accepting more than $1 million in bribes from the Russian athletics federation in 2011. He resigned his post as track and field chief that month, days after the I.O.C. suspended him from his position as an honorary member.

According to French prosectors, athletes had been pressured to pay the bribes to cover up the positive doping tests of Russian athletes, some of whom competed at the 2012 London Olympics.

Mr. Diack’s son, a sports official who worked for his father, and other track officials were also accused of participating in the scheme, and of rigging the votes for the hosting rights to several Olympics.

In September 2020, Mr. Diack was found guilty of corruption and sentenced to four years in prison, two of them suspended.

Lamine Diack was born on June 7, 1933, in Dakar, Senegal. Long before he became president of the I.A.A.F, according to his biography on the organization’s website, Mr. Diack was a promising long jumper, winning the French title in 1958. But a knee injury reportedly ended his hopes of competing in the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome.

By the 1970s, he was rising through the leadership ranks of track and field’s governing body, eventually becoming senior vice president of the organization in 1991. During the same period, he held numerous political appointments in Senegal, including mayor of Dakar from 1978 to 1980.

After the death of the I.A.A.F. president Primo Nebiolo in 1999, Mr. Diack took over as acting president. He was subsequently re-elected in 2001 and held the post until he declined to run again in 2015.

Despite his conviction last year, Mr. Diack enjoyed widespread support in Senegal. Responding on Twitter to the news of Mr. Diack’s death, Senegal’s president, Macky Sall, mourned the loss of one of the country’s “most illustrious sons.”

“Diack was a man of great dimension,” Mr. Sall wrote. “My heartfelt condolences to the whole Nation.”

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