KEY POINTS

  • Hamane Niang resumes FIBA duties amid Mali women’s basketball abuse issue
  • Niang is not implicated in a report on the sexual abuse allegations
  • His critics are not buying the 69-year-old’s non-involvement

The row tied to the sexual abuse of female basketball players in Mali gained some headway, and part of that was clearing the air on FIBA president Hamane Niang’s role in the issue.

Niang stepped aside temporarily in June as the investigation was conducted on allegations of systemic sexual harassment and abuse of dozens of female players in Mali.

The majority of the victims were teenagers since at least the early 2000s. The controversy was published by the Times last June 2020.

Niang was never accused of committing sexual abuse. However, most criticized him for not taking action on the cases that allegedly happened between 1999 and 2011.

It is for this reason that most claim the 69-year-old neglected and left female players vulnerable as well as exploited in his home country.

In an email, Niang reportedly said that he did not know about the sexual abuse allegations contained in the article from The Times.

However, a 149-page report that had the findings of the investigation by FIBA integrity officer and Canadian lawyer Richard H. McLaren may have shed a bit of light on the subject.

The report revealed that abuse did persist in Mali but found no direct evidence that Niang’s knowledge about the sexual harassment claims.

After it came out, Niang issued an official statement on the matter.

“This investigation is of paramount importance and I would like to express my personal and unconditional support to the victims. These offenses must be duly prosecuted by FIBA through independent procedures. Since the Integrity Officer has confirmed my innocence, I will now resume my official duties with FIBA,” he said.

Two players who were teenagers at the time allege that Niang was present at a nightclub in Mali when the incident happened.

This was during a celebration in 2006 or 2007 as they were holding a victory celebration.

The issue revolved around a coach named Cheick Oumar Sissoko, also known as Yankee, who allegedly groped their breasts and buttocks while they were dancing.

Niang allegedly saw everything but did not intervene. They claim that the FIBA top brass merely watched and laughed.

Jose Ruiz, a Frenchman, eventually took over from Sissoko for the 2013 African championships.

He did not criticize Niang and only said that he was close with Sissoko and that abuse of female players in Mali was a big problem.

For now, Niang may be in the clear. But his critics feel that it was impossible that the FIBA executive did not know about the abuse.

“As they said in their report, it’s an institutionalized system. That system is not new; it’s been more than 20 years. No one did anything to change that, Niang included,” Cheick Camara, a reform activist who said he assisted the FIBA investigation stated.

Hamane Niang takes a picture with Isabelle Yacoubou of France on day 13 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Arena Carioca 2 Hamane Niang takes a picture with Isabelle Yacoubou of France on day 13 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Arena Carioca 2 Photo: Getty Images | Jean Catuffe