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Former Rio mayor probed in Olympic-linked corruption scandal

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Former Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes, the moving force behind organizing last year’s Olympics, is being investigated for allegedly accepting at least 15 million reals ($5 million) in payments to facilitate construction projects tied to the Games.

Paes is one of dozens of top politicians implicated in a sweeping judicial corruption investigation in which construction giant Odebrecht illegally paid billions to help win contracts.

Paes’ name appears in documents published Tuesday by Brazil’s top court, and could stand trial if the country’s attorney general decides to prosecute.

In a statement Wednesday from his spokeswoman, Tereza Fayal, the former mayor strongly denied the allegations made in several plea bargains signed by former and present Odebrecht employees, calling the accusations “absurd and untruthful.”

“He vehemently denies that he has accepted bribes to facilitate, or to benefit, the interests of the Odebrecht company,” the statement said.

Paes stepped in forcefully about two years before the Olympics opened, shortly after International Olympic Committee Vice President John Coates called Rio’s preparations “the worst” he’d ever seen and woefully behind schedule.

The IOC repeatedly credited Paes with speeding up preparations and cutting through red tape.

As rumors swirled around Olympic preparations, Paes often challenged reporters to find any corruption in city-hall contracts.

Days after the trouble-plagued Olympics ended, Paes and Carlos Nuzman — an IOC member and the president of the organizing committee — were awarded the “Olympic Order” by IOC President Thomas Bach.

In a statement Wednesday to The Associated Press, the IOC said Paes should be regarded as innocent until proven otherwise.

“These are allegations which he (Paes) strenuously denies,” the IOC said.

Odebrecht was involved in building many Olympic-related projects, including several arenas at the Olympic Park in suburban Barra de Tijuca, a subway-line extension, and the renovation of Rio’s port area.

The Supreme Court documents showed Paes received more 11 million reals ($3.5 million) in local bank accounts, and the rest in off-shore accounts.

In the statement, Paes said “he’s never had off-shore accounts.”

Paes left office on Jan. 1 after a term-limited eight years. He was once viewed as a presidential candidate, hoping to use the Olympics as a springboard. He recently said he hoped to run next year for governor of the state of Rio de Janeiro.

He is referred to in the Odebrecht documents as “The Little Nervous One.”

Plea bargains also indicate that irregularities — none of them involving Paes — were seen in awarding contracts for at least three stadiums for the 2014 World Cup: Sao Paulo, Recife and Brasilia.

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MORE: Russian track and field stars cleared to compete

IOC expects decisions on Russian doping cases next month

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Investigators at the International Olympic Committee expect to have “a number” of doping cases involving Russians at the Sochi Olympics resolved by the end of November, but they have no plans to dictate the eligibility of these athletes for next year’s Winter Games in PyeongChang.

The leader of an IOC delegation in charge of reviewing 28 cases involving athletes at Sochi wrote to the head of the IOC Athletes Commission this week to update the timeline of cases stemming from a report detailing a Russian doping scheme at the 2014 Olympics and beforehand.

Denis Oswald said that of the cases his committee is reviewing, priority has been given to those involving athletes looking to compete in PyeongChang. Top priority goes to six cross-country skiers whose provisional suspensions expire Oct. 31.

Oswald also said his committee would rule on these athletes’ results for Sochi, but will not determine their eligibility for PyeongChang, instead handing over evidence to their respective sports federations to decide.

The IOC also appointed a task force to look at the Russian doping scandal as a whole, the results of which could have wider repercussions on the country’s eligibility at next year’s Olympics.

In a separate letter sent to worldwide sports leaders, IOC President Thomas Bach said only that the Schmid Commission is continuing its evaluation and that “I hope that the IOC Executive Board will still be able to take a decision this year because none of us want this serious issue to overshadow” the upcoming Olympics.

The updates come amid a growing chorus of calls for a timely decision and for Russia’s ouster from PyeongChang.

The IOC commissions are operating off information from the McLaren Report, the first part of which was released in July 2016.

In explaining the timeline, Oswald wrote that because the Russian scheme involved exchanging dirty urine samples with clean ones, it took time to adopt methods to verify that samples had been tampered with — in part by finding evidence of scratch marks on collection bottles that had been opened and re-sealed.

“The task has not been easy in both establishing a methodology in an area in which there are no established protocols,” he wrote, “and then moving through the necessary scientific analysis of each individual sample in a way which would withstand legal challenge.”

MORE: USOC boss calls for immediate action on Russian doping

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Two-time Olympian becomes first woman to lead U.S. national swim team

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — Two-time Olympian Lindsay Mintenko has been picked to lead the U.S. national swimming team. She is the first woman to hold the title.

USA Swimming made the announcement Wednesday.

Mintenko replaces Frank Busch, who retired Oct. 1 as managing director. She has been a member of the national team staff since 2006.

During her swimming career, Mintenko won gold medals as a U.S. team captain at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics 800m freestyle relay and added a silver in 2004 on the 400m freestyle relay.

USA Swimming also announced an organizational restructuring that will place all technical divisions, including the national team, under the oversight of chief operating officer Mike Unger.

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