A Paris court heard allegations yesterday that top athletes hushed up suspected doping by giving millions of dollars in illicit payoffs to corrupt administrators as the trial got under-way for the disgraced former head of track and field, who was once among the most influential leaders in Olympic sports.

Wearing a face mask, Lamine Diack was present in court for the first of six days of hearings that will weigh evidence that his presidency of track and field’s governing body was riddled with corruption and other malfeasance, hurting athletes who raced against competitors who were suspected of doping but who have since testified that they paid to keep competing.

Documents seized during the years-long investigation suggest that athletes paid to have doping charges buried or delayed, an illicit mechanism dubbed “full protection,” the court president said, outlining the case with tentacles stretching from Europe to Asia and Africa.

In the audience was a French marathon runner, Christelle Daunay, who competed against one of the athletes, Russian runner Liliya Shobukhova, who later testified to investigators about illicit payments to hush up doping. Beaten by Shobukhova at the 2011 Chicago Marathon, Daunay is a civil party to the case and is seeking €110,000 in damages and compensation for earnings she believes she lost because of the alleged cover-ups by administrators at the IAAF, including Diack.

“It was a whole system, and when you see all the money involved, it’s shocking,” Daunay said.

Diack, 87, the IAAF president for nearly 16 years, is being tried for corruption, money laundering, and breach of trust. Prosecutors say he directly or indirectly solicited €3.45 million from athletes suspected by the IAAF of doping who paid to have their names cleared so that they could continue competing. About two dozen Russian athletes were reportedly involved. Shobukhova testified that she alone paid the equivalent of €450,000, a large chunk of which was subsequently refunded to her when she was later suspended for doping despite the alleged payoff, the court president detailed.

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