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IOC asks for transcripts suggesting 2020 Olympic bid bribery

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LONDON (AP) — The IOC is ready to examine allegations of possible bribery in the bidding for the 2020 Olympics.

The Olympic body said Friday it has asked the World Anti-Doping Agency’s independent commission for transcripts from its report on doping and corruption in track and field that raises the possibility that $5 million in sponsorship money was paid to help Tokyo secure the Games.

A footnote to the WADA report indicates that former IAAF president Lamine Diack was prepared to sell his vote in the 2020 bidding contest in exchange for sponsorship of IAAF events. The report suggests that Diack — an IOC member at the time — dropped his support for Istanbul because Turkey refused to pay, and backed Tokyo after the Japanese did pay.

“We have already asked the Independent Commission for the transcript so that we can better understand the context and the claims being made,” the International Olympic Committee said in a statement to The Associated Press.

Tokyo organizers said the allegation was “beyond our understanding,” while Turkey’s Olympic committee said Diack’s reported demand was not the reason Istanbul lost.

The IOC statement noted that Dick Pound, an IOC member who chaired the WADA panel, said he was “fairly confident” the current Olympic bidding process is free of organized corruption.

“We have done an enormous amount since 1999, to make sure that that cannot happen,” Pound said, referring to the cleanup after the Salt Lake City bidding scandal. “If there is going to be individual bits of corruption you can’t stop all that. But organizationally, I don’t think that’s an issue with the Olympics.”

The WADA commission report cites transcripts of conversations between one of Diack’s sons, Khalil, and Turkish track officials in connection with the 2020 bidding process.

“Turkey lost LD’s support because they did not pay sponsorship moneys of $4 to 5 million either to the Diamond League or IAAF,” the note said, referring to Lamine Diack. “According (to) the transcript the Japanese did pay such a sum.”

“The 2020 Games were awarded to Tokyo,” the note added. “The IC did not investigate this matter further for it was not within our remit.”

Tokyo defeated Istanbul 60-36 in the final round of IOC voting in 2013 in Buenos Aires. The third candidate, Madrid, was eliminated earlier in a runoff with Istanbul.

“The note in the (WADA) report is beyond our understanding,” Hikariko Ono, a spokeswoman for the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee, said in a statement. “The games were awarded to Tokyo because the city presented the best bid. Tokyo’s bid was about Japan’s commitment to address issues around the integrity of sport.”

Ugur Erdener, head of the Turkish Olympic Committee, issued a statement Friday saying Istanbul did not lose because of Diack’s reported demand for sponsorship money.

“Lamine Diack was the head of the IAAF at the time and may have been expecting sponsorship for his federation,” said Erdener, who also serves on the IOC executive board. “He may have used his individual vote in favor of another city that met his expectations.”

“Lamine Diack does not have the authority to grant the Olympic Games to any city, and in the end, he only used his vote,” Erdener said. “Therefore, it would not be a correct approach to explain the fact that Istanbul did not win the right to organize the 2020 Olympic Games through Lamine Diack’s vote alone.”

Diack, of Senegal, served as an IOC member from 1999 to 2013. As a senior figure in the Olympic world, he could have held sway in influencing a bloc of IOC votes.

Diack resigned as an honorary IOC member in November, a day after he was provisionally suspended by the executive board. The move came after he was placed under criminal investigation in France on corruption and money-laundering charges in connection with cover-ups of Russian doping cases.

Pound on Thursday recommended the IAAF “take a vigorous, forensic look” at the 2020 Olympic vote-buying allegation and the awarding of world championships to certain cities and countries.

“We have had reports from people who seem to know what they are talking about,” Pound said at a news conference. “We have brought that to the attention of the IAAF and recommended they take a vigorous forensic look at it, to see whether there is anything to the allegations.”

It’s not the first time Diack has been linked to possible Olympic bribery.

The Guardian newspaper reported Tuesday that it had seen emails from one of Diack’s sons, Papa Masata Diack, regarding alleged “parcels” to be delivered to six IOC members in connection with the bid from Doha, Qatar, for the 2016 Games.

The Guardian said the parcels were to have been delivered through a man believed to be Lamine Diack.

It wasn’t known whether any packages were sent. In any case, a month after the email was sent in May 2008, Doha failed to make the list of finalists in the 2016 bidding.

Last week, Papa Masata Diack was banned for life by the IAAF ethics commission for corruption and cover-up allegations linked to Russian doping.

The IOC said it asked the Guardian for copies of the emails so the material could be sent to its ethics commission, but that the Guardian had refused.

MORE: Vladimir Putin named in WADA report on Russia track and field

French Open: Karolina Pliskova, top player sans Slam, again exits early

Karolina Pliskova
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No. 2 seed Karolina Pliskova exited yet another Grand Slam in the early stages, falling to 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia in the second round at Roland Garros on Thursday.

Ostapenko, whose only match wins at the French Open before this week came in her title run three years ago, bounced the big-serving Czech 6-4, 6-2.

Pliskova put fewer than half of her first serves in play, while Ostapenko fired 27 winners to 19 unforced errors. Pliskova was on the ropes in her first round, too, needing three sets to get past an Egyptian qualifier.

“Maybe same level as the match before, but of course [Ostapenko] is much better player,” Pliskova said. “Not much to say about this match.”

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Later Thursday, top-ranked Novak Djokovic had a second straight win ceding just five games, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 over Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis. Djokovic undefeated in 2020 save his U.S. Open default for smacking a ball that inadvertently struck a linesperson, next gets Colombian lucky loser Daniel Elahi Galán.

Nobody else in Djokovic’s half of the draw at the start of the tournament made a French Open semifinal before.

Pliskova is the highest-ranked player of either gender (No. 4) without a Grand Slam title, yet hasn’t made it past the fourth round at a major since the 2019 Australian Open.

She’s played six Slams as a No. 1 or No. 2 seed, one shy of Caroline Wozniacki‘s total before she broke through at the 2018 Australian Open and two shy of Simona Halep‘s total before she won the 2018 French Open.

Ostapenko, meanwhile, is having a very different career.

She won the 2017 Roland Garros title, two days after turning 20, while ranked 47th. She hasn’t gotten past the third round of a major since 2018 Wimbledon, including first-round French Open exits the last two years, and is back down to No. 43 in the WTA rankings.

“It’s hard to compare with 2017. As I said, it was like three years ago, and I was much younger, and also I was fearless. Nobody knew me,” Ostapenko said. “The world doesn’t stop with winning only one Grand Slam. Of course I want to achieve more, and I want to be back in top five, top 10.”

She dropped just nine games in four sets this week.

Ostapenko gets 87th-ranked Spaniard Paula Badosa in third round. Badosa dispatched 2018 French Open runner-up Sloane Stephens 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.

MORE: Serena Williams ‘struggling to walk’

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Figure skating’s Grand Prix fields look very different this season

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Before Nathan Chen is expected to go for a historic fifth straight U.S. figure skating title in January, he will, in a first, compete against most of his top countrymen later this month.

Fields for the Grand Prix Series, figure skating’s autumn international circuit, were published Thursday. As expected, every top skater entered will compete in his or her home country, or nearest to where he or she trains, and in one of the six events.

Traditionally, skaters compete in two of the six events and are scattered among competitions in the U.S., Canada, France, Russia, China and Japan based on world rankings.

But the International Skating Union restricted travel this season due to the coronavirus pandemic. Skaters are limited to compete locally. And the Grand Prix Final at the conclusion of the Grand Prix Series has been postponed from its scheduled December setting in Beijing.

That means that Chen vies for a record-tying fourth straight Skate America crown in Las Vegas in three weeks against a field mostly made up of countrymen, including Olympic teammate Vincent Zhou and U.S. bronze medalist Tomoki Hiwatashi.

In all, there are eight U.S. men entered in Skate America, 11 women (including past national champions Bradie Tennell and Gracie Gold), six pairs and nine ice dance couples (including U.S. champions Madison Chock and Evan Bates and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue), plus some skaters from other nations who train in the U.S.

Traditionally, a country has no more than three entries per discipline at a Grand Prix event.

GRAND PRIX FIELDS: Men | Women | Pairs | Ice Dance

Sochi Olympian Jason Brown, who trains in Toronto, is entered in Skate Canada the week after Skate America.

Two-time U.S. women’s champion Alysa Liu will not be old enough for the Grand Prix Series until the 2021-22 Olympic season.

All of the reigning Olympic champions are absent from the series.

Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan previously announced he wouldn’t compete due to virus-related travel risks. Russian Alina Zagitova extended her indefinite break from competition dating to last autumn, rather choosing to participate in a skating-themed TV series.

Ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada retired. The German pairs’ team of Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot last competed in the 2018 Olympic season.

Instead, the headliners include Chen, the two-time world champion undefeated since placing fifth in PyeongChang. And a deep crop of Russian teenage women, all of course entered in the Rostelecom Cup in Moscow in November.

MORE: Brian Orser reacts to Yevgenia Medvedeva’s coaching switch

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