FIBA said in a statement Monday it was acting upon information received from the New York Times and Human Rights Watch. In a report published Sunday, a pair of activists in Mali told the Times they knew of more than 100 women, many of whom were teenagers at the time, who say they were sexually abused. They also claimed at least a dozen basketball coaches have been accused of abuse.
Among those named in the story was Cheick Oumar Sissoko, a coach accused of forcing players to have sex with him to keep their spots on his teams. At other times, according to current and former players, Sissoko engaged in sexual harassment while in the company of Niang, who was described as a close friend of the coach.
Niang “strongly denies the allegations,” FIBA said Monday.
The governing body announced that Sissoko was suspended, as was another coach, Amadou Bamba, and an official, Hario Maiga. Bamba, a 51-year-old who has been serving as the head coach of Mali’s under-18 national women’s team, also was accused of coercing sex from players.
Niang has “offered his full collaboration to the investigation,” and the Mali federation has been told to also cooperate, FIBA said. The Switzerland-based organization announced the investigation will be led by Richard McLaren, a Canadian academic who specializes in sports law and who headed a probe into accusations of years-long, systematic doping by Russia’s athletics federation.
As FIBA president, Niang was, among other things, in charge of the basketball slate at the upcoming Olympics in Tokyo. In his absence, Sheikh Saud Ali Al-Thani, a Qatari official who has been the head of FIBA Asia, will run the global organization.
FIBA said it expects McLaren to submit a report on the Mali allegations shortly after the Tokyo Games.
“FIBA has zero-tolerance for all forms of harassment and abuse and extends its heartfelt compassion for victims of such conduct,” the organization stated. “FIBA is committed to ensuring reports of such behavior are taken seriously and properly investigated.”