Justice accuses French sports minister of defamation four months before Paris 2024. GETTY IMAGES

Former French Football Federation president Noël Le Graët has filed a defamation lawsuit against Amélie Oudéa-Castéra over comments she made in February about the management of the 2023 bid. Le Graët resigned in February following a report by the General Inspectorate for Education, Sport and Research.

In December, French magistrates indicted Sports Minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra following a defamation lawsuit filed by former France Football Federation (FFF) president Noël Le Graët. Several sources said as much on Thursday, as reported by AFP. The situation comes at a crucial time. It comes just four months before the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

On 21 June, the Court of Justice of the Republic, the only authority competent to judge members of the government in the exercise of their functions, opened an investigation into statements made by Oudéa-Castéra in February 2023 regarding Le Graët's management of the FFF. 

The minister holds one of the most important and relevant positions in the government with regard to the Paris 2024 celebrations, so this legal situation is keeping France on tenterhooks. Prosecutor Rémy Heitz confirmed that the embattled minister had been charged with "public defamation of a person". The events for which she has now been charged date back to last year. 

Le Graët resigned in February after a report by the Inspectorate General for Education, Sport and Research (IGESR), which concluded that his behaviour was "incompatible" with his role and the "required exemplary conduct" of his position, following allegations of sexual harassment. 

Amélie Oudéa-Castéra and Tony Estanguet, at an event ahead of Paris 2024. GETTY IMAGES
Amélie Oudéa-Castéra and Tony Estanguet, at an event ahead of Paris 2024. GETTY IMAGES

Hours after his departure, his lawyer announced a lawsuit, accusing the minister of "lying" about the report and pointing to differences between the summary of the document, which spoke of "words" and messages of "ambiguous" or "clearly sexual nature", and the full version, AFP reported.

Noël Le Graët, 82, has been president for 11 years. During that time, the men's football team won the 2018 World Cup and reached the final last year, losing to Argentina on penalties. His leadership has brought great sporting success to French football. But this case now leaves the situation uncertain and creates uncertainty about his figure.

At the start of 2024, criticism of state schools by Oudéa-Castéra, whose children attend an elite private school in Paris, sparked weeks of controversy. It cost her the post of education minister less than a month after she added it to the sports and Olympics portfolio she had held since May 2022. 

The most notable change introduced by Emmanuel Macron on 8 February in the new government of 35 members was the removal of the education and youth portfolio from the former tennis player, who will continue to hold the sports and Olympics portfolio, albeit in a difficult situation following this indictment and her legal journey.