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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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IOC suspends Brazil Olympic Committee, Rio 2016 boss after arrest

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ZURICH (AP) — After being arrested in Rio de Janeiro and accused of storing gold bars in Switzerland, Brazilian Olympic Committee president Carlos Nuzman was suspended by the IOC on Friday.

The decision came hours after Brazilian authorities investigating a 2016 Olympic vote-buying case asked for help from prosecutors in Switzerland.

The Brazilian Olympic Committee was also provisionally suspended and had its funding frozen. The world Olympic body also further cut ties with the Nuzman-led Rio Games organizing committee which still has unpaid debts.

Nuzman, a 75-year-old lawyer, was also removed from the IOC’s panel overseeing preparations for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The International Olympic Committee announced the decisions after an emergency conference call of its executive board. The IOC said its decision will not affect Brazilian athletes, who will continue to receive scholarship funds and be eligible for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Nuzman was arrested on Thursday on suspicion of obstructing investigators from Brazil and France, who detained and questioned him one month ago. Their case explores suspicious payments linked to how the city won the hosting rights for the Olympics.

Brazilian prosecutors revealed on Thursday they believed Nuzman stored 16 bars of gold in a depository in Geneva and greatly increased his wealth while overseeing the Rio bid and organizing committees.

The office of Switzerland’s attorney general said on Friday it was “analyzing” a request from Brazil for legal assistance.

“The request has been transferred from the Federal Office of Justice (FOJ) to the (attorney general’s office) as the competent authority for execution,” the federal office said in a statement.

Brazilian prosecutors have implicated Nuzman in a bribery scheme of at least $2 million to help win votes from IOC members, who chose Rio as host city in 2009 in a four-city contest. The losers were Chicago, supported by then-President Barack Obama, Madrid and Tokyo.

Nuzman is believed to be a central figure in channeling at least $2 million of a Brazilian businessman’s money to Lamine Diack, a former IOC member from Senegal who helped control African votes.

Diack has been arrested in France as part of a wider case of alleged corruption while he was president of the IAAF, including blackmailing athletes to cover up doping cases.

The French case has also implicated four-time Olympic sprint medalist Frank Fredericks of Namibia. He was an IOC executive board member in October 2009 when he got a $300,000 payment linked to Brazil and the Diack family on the day Rio won.

On Thursday, Brazilian authorities said Nuzman’s net worth increased by 457 percent in his last 10 years as the country’s Olympic leader.

Nuzman was arrested because investigators found he tried to hamper the investigation by regularizing assets likely gained with illicit money. Last month, he allegedly amended his tax declaration to add about $600,000 in income.

Nuzman’s lawyers said he denies wrongdoing, and the IOC said he had the presumption of innocence while its ethics commission studies the case.

Suspending Nuzman and removing him from Tokyo work was recommended on Thursday by Ban Ki-Moon, the former United Nations secretary general who the IOC announced last month would chair its panel scrutinizing unethical conduct.

Ban noted the “the gravity and urgency of the situation and its impact on the reputation of the IOC,” which published the document.

The IOC board chaired by President Thomas Bach approved Ban’s suggested sanctions on Friday, and added others, in a further sign of frustration with Rio organizers since the troubled Summer Games ended 14 months ago.

Bach rebuffed Nuzman’s request in July for another cash handout to pay creditors who are owed tens of millions of dollars by the Rio organizing committee.

The IOC repeated on Friday it “closed all its obligations with the organizing committee in December 2016.”

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MORE: IOC seeks more information regarding vote-buying case

IOC calms Olympic concern amid North Korea tension

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — With France’s sports minister raising questions about security, the IOC is trying to calm concern about the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

The International Olympic Committee said Friday it has been in close contact with the United Nations and the “heads of government concerned.”

IOC President Thomas Bach met with China President Xi Jinping in Tianjin last month and with South Korea President Moon Jae-in at the U.N. in New York.

“In none of the discussions, has anybody expressed any doubt” about the Winter Games, the IOC said in a statement.

Tensions fueled by North Korea’s missile testing rose this week after U.S. President Donald Trump used his U.N. General Assembly speech to threaten the country’s destruction. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un described Trump as “deranged.”

France’s sports minister, Laura Flessel, suggested on Thursday its team could stay home if its security could not be assured in South Korea.

“Athletes’ safety and security are of course a primary concern for the IOC,” the Olympic body said.

U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun said “we will continue to work with our State Department and local organizers to ensure that our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe.” He added that the USOC is confident South Korean organizers would deliver a “great Games.”

Olympic officials in winter sports hubs like Austria, Denmark and Sweden said Friday it was too early to doubt participation in PyeongChang, where the games open Feb. 9.

“We feel safe,” Peter Reinebo of Sweden’s Olympic Committee said, adding that a decision to stay away would require an “international decision from the United Nations and a strong warning from Swedish authorities.”

“But such things do not exist today. We are completely focused on going and taking part,” Reinebo said.

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MORE: South Korea president calls for North Korea at PyeongChang Olympics