Lamine Diack, the former head of athletics’ world governing body the IAAF, told a French court he slowed the handling of Russian doping cases between 2011-2013 “for the financial health” of the organisation.
The 86-year-old Senegalese is facing corruption and money-laundering charges linked to the Russian doping scandal.
He is accused of taking payments of 3m euros to cover up cheating.
“We were going through a difficult moment financially,” he said.
“My duty was to make sure the IAAF got out of it.”
“Who took the decision to spread out the [sanction procedures]? It was me,” Diack told the court’s three judges.
“It was mainly for the financial health of the IAAF. The financial health of the IAAF had to be safeguarded and I was prepared to make that compromise.”
He said his aim was to prevent the doping cases derailing talks with prospective Russian sponsors
Diack told the court a Russian bank renewed its sponsorship contract worth $32m (£25,4m) in February 2013.
Prosecutors allege Diack solicited bribes totalling 3.45m euros ($3.9m, £3.1m) from athletes suspected of doping to cover up test results and let them continue competing.
Diack denies the charges of corruption, money laundering and breach of trust but if found guilty could face up to 10 years in jail.