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Tokyo 2020 Olympic bid payment was ‘consultant’s fee’

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TOKYO (AP) — Leaders of Tokyo’s winning bid for the 2020 Olympics acknowledged Friday making payments to a firm in Singapore, but said the funds were for legitimate consulting fees and maintained that all bid activities were “fair and correct.”

In the months immediately before and after Tokyo was awarded the games in 2013, 2.8 million Singapore dollars ($2 million) is thought to have been transferred in two segments from a bank in Japan to the account in Singapore of a company called Black Tidings, French prosecutors said Thursday. The transactions were marked “Tokyo 2020 Olympic Game Bid.”

Ian Tan Tong Han is the holder of the Black Tidings account, which has been linked to the son of disgraced former IAAF President Lamine Diack.

“The payments mentioned in the media were a legitimate consultant’s fee paid to the service we received from Mr. Tan’s company,” former bid committee president Tsunekazu Takeda and director general Nobumuto Higuchi said in a statement on Friday. “It followed a full and proper contract and the monies were fully audited by Ernst & Young ShinNihon LLC.”

Takeda, who now serves as the president of the Japanese Olympic Committee, said the consultant services included planning for the bid, advice for international lobbying, and information and media analysis.

“The amounts paid were in our opinion proper and adequate for the services provided and gave no cause for suspicion at the time,” the statement said. “This message was conveyed to the IOC when these allegations first surfaced after a request for information from the IOC.”

The statement added: “The activity by the Tokyo bid committee was at all times fair and correct.”

Tokyo defeated Istanbul and Madrid in an International Olympic Committee vote in Buenos Aires in September 2013.

Black Tidings has earned a dubious reputation over the years.

It was used to transfer funds in the cover-up of a Russian doping case, according to a World Anti-Doping Agency investigation. And the sports marketing consultant identified by WADA as the account holder has been closely tied to the family that ruled track and field for 16 years via Diack.

As president of the International Association of Athletics Federations and member of the International Olympic Committee, Diack was one of the most influential men in sports. He is under investigation in France for suspected corruption, barred from leaving the country while the magistrates’ probe continues.

His son, former IAAF marketing consultant Papa Massata Diack, is also wanted in France on bribery, money laundering and corruption charges, but is thought to be living in his native Senegal, out of reach of French magistrates. International police organization Interpol has put him on its “Red Notice” list of internationally wanted suspected criminals.

Mr. Tan is one of Papa Massata Diack’s very close friends. They were so close that Tan named his child, born in 2014, “Massata,” according to the WADA probe.

The Turkish Olympic Committee, meanwhile, issued a statement Friday disassociating itself from comments by one of its officials suggesting that the 2020 Games could be moved to London if Japan is found to have used bribery to get the games.

“These were the personal views of an individual and do not reflect the official views of the TOC,” the statement said. “Only the IOC can decide where the games are held.”

Tokyo defeated Istanbul 60-36 in the final round of the IOC voting. Madrid was eliminated on the first ballot.

The Turkish committee said it is “aware of the allegations made against Tokyo 2020 bid committee,” but the matter is being “fully investigated” by the IOC.

“It would be wrong to try and pre-judge the findings and any possible action that may follow,” the statement said. “The campaign for the 2020 Games is now over for Turkey.”

Possible wrongdoing involving Lamine Diack and the 2020 Olympic bid race was cited in a WADA-commissioned investigation of the IAAF. A footnote to a report by the WADA commission in January indicated that Diack was prepared to sell his vote in exchange for $5 million in sponsorship for the IAAF.

The report suggested that Diack dropped his support for Istanbul’s bid because Turkey refused to pay, and also indicated that the Japanese did pay.

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Sam Girard, Olympic short track champion, surprisingly retires at age 22

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Sam Girard, who avoided a three-skater pileup to win the PyeongChang Olympic 1000m, retired from short track speed skating at age 22, saying he lost the desire to compete.

“I leave my sport satisfied with what I have accomplished,” Girard said in a press release. “This decision was very well thought through. I am at peace with the choice that I’ve made and am ready to move onto the next step.”

Girard and girlfriend and fellow Olympic skater Kasandra Bradette announced their careers end together in a tearful French-language press conference in Quebec on Friday.

Girard detailed the decision in a letter, the sacrifices made to pursue skating. Notably, moving from his hometown of Ferland-et-Boilleau, population 600, to Montreal in 2012. His hobbies had been of the outdoor variety, but he now had to drive an hour and a half from the training center just to go fishing.

In PyeongChang, Girard led for most of the 1000m final, which meant he avoided chaos behind him on the penultimate lap of the nine-lap race. Hungarian Liu Shaolin Sandor‘s inside pass took out South Koreans Lim Hyo-Jun and Seo Yi-Ra, leaving just Girard and American John-Henry Krueger.

Girard maintained his lead, crossing .214 in front of Krueger to claim the title. He also finished fourth in the 500m and 1500m and earned bronze in the relay.

“My first Olympics, won a gold medal, can’t ask for more,” he said afterward.

Though Girard was already accomplished — earning individual silver medals at the 2016 and 2017 Worlds — he came to PyeongChang as the heir apparent to Charles Hamelin, a roommate on the World Cup circuit whom Girard likened to a big brother. Girard earned another world silver medal this past season.

Hamelin, after taking individual gold in 2010 and 2014, left PyeongChang without an individual medal in what many expected to be his last Olympics. However, he went back on a retirement vow and continued to skate through the 2018-19 season.

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MORE: J.R. Celski explains decision to retire

Maia, Alex Shibutani extend break from ice dance competition

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Brother-sister ice dance duo Maia and Alex Shibutani will not compete next season, the Olympic bronze medalists announced via U.S. Figure Skating on Friday.

“We’re healthier and stronger than we were after the Olympics, and we’re continuing to push ourselves,” Maia Shibutani said in a press release.

“We’ve continued to skate a lot, and we feel like we’ve benefited from some time away to create in different environments and focus on experiences that can help us grow,” Alex said.

The “Shib Sibs” won the U.S. title in 2016 and 2017. They won their first world medal in 2011 (bronze) before reaching the world podium again in 2016 and 2017 with silver and bronze, respectively.

They most recently competed at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, where they earned bronze both individually and in the team event.

Maia and Alex Shibutani are now the second ice dance medalists from PyeongChang to announce they’ll sit out at least part of next season. Gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada will tour instead this fall and are not expected to return to competition.

The siblings haven’t stayed away from the ice entirely in their break from the sport, though — they’ve also been touring and performing in shows.

The Shibutanis became the second set of siblings to earn Olympic ice dance medals after France’s Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay in 1992.

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