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IOC seeks more information regarding vote-buying case

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LIMA, Peru (AP) — What was supposed to be a stress-free meeting of the International Olympic Committee turned into something quite different Monday, when IOC president Thomas Bach was forced to spend nearly an hour defending the handling of a mushrooming bid scandal and insisting the IOC is doing its best to fight corruption.

Bach was on defense throughout a news conference held after a meeting of the IOC executive board, which earlier in the day said it was asking Brazilian authorities for details involving IOC member Carlos Nuzman. Nuzman, the organizer of the Rio Games, is accused of funneling $2 million to another former IOC member, Lamine Diack, to secure votes to bring the Olympics to Rio.

Last week, Brazilian police brought Nuzman in for questioning, setting up the awkwardness this week in Peru, where the IOC will award the 2024 Olympics to Paris and the 2028 Games to Los Angeles on Wednesday.

“We have taken action in the case of Mr. Diack,” Bach said, in reference to the former head of track and field whose IOC membership has been stripped. “When evidence is provided (in the Nuzman case), we will act. But in order to take action, you need evidence.”

Less than two years ago, Bach was critical of FIFA, which was embroiled in a bidding scandal of its own. He urged soccer’s governing body to get its house in order because it could “continue to overshadow the credibility of FIFA and affect all sports organizations for such a long time.”

At that time, Bach started reforming the IOC’s own auditing and ethics operations, and on Monday, he insisted those changes are well under way. But he couldn’t avoid questions about how he could be critical of others when the IOC clearly still has its own issues, some two decades after reforms in the wake of a bid scandal that sullied the Salt Lake City Games.

“Nobody wants to have credibility issues,” Bach said. “But we have to be realistic. No organization in the world is immune to credibility issues. We have to face this reality and we have undertaken the reforms and provided ourselves with the instruments to tackle these challenges. I hope these will also be respected.”

Also in the news this week was IOC member Patrick Hickey’s resignation from the executive board, a year after being arrested in Brazil in a ticket-scalping investigation. And not attending this week’s meetings is IOC member Frankie Fredericks, who was previously removed from the committee’s inspection team for Paris and Los Angeles in wake of allegations he was caught up in the vote scandal. Fredericks has denied wrongdoing, saying a $300,000 payment he received from Diack’s son on the day Rio won the vote for 2016 was for legitimate consultancy work.

Bach also parried questions about doping. The IOC is still awaiting conclusions from a pair of committees before determining the fate of Russian athletes for next year’s Winter Games. The committees are studying evidence from the McLaren report, which documented widespread doping fraud inside the country at the Sochi Games and beforehand.

Both committees are submitting interim reports this week “and it will be up to them to define the right time to submit the final report,” Bach said. He’s hoping for more clarity before the World Cup ski season begins later this year.

And yet, the IOC’s handling of the doping issue was a mere subplot to the issue of whether the organization’s bidding process is irreversibly broken.

Because neither 2024 nor 2028 will be subject to a competitive vote, Bach likely has avoided that issue for the time being. He called getting Paris and Los Angeles on the Olympic calendar a “golden opportunity” that the IOC simply couldn’t pass up. And yet, that led to questions about whether the change in strategy was nothing more than a quick fix to remove the voting power from the 94 IOC members’ hands.

No, he said. “Just today, we adopted even stricter rules for 2026,” Bach said of the only remaining Olympics left to be awarded this decade.

But all the questions Monday circled back to one simple theme: Does the IOC have an image problem?

“This is not my call to speak of the IOC’s image, because it’s in the eyes of everybody,” Bach said. “Everybody should make their own judgment. The only hope I have is that the judgment is made on facts and actions, and not so much by perceptions.”

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Adam Jones, five-time MLB All-Star, becomes Olympic eligible

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Should the U.S. qualify for baseball’s Olympic return, a five-time MLB All-Star could be eligible for its roster in Tokyo. And he has interest.

Outfielder Adam Jones signed with the Orix Buffaloes of Japan’s domestic league, which, unlike MLB, will take an Olympic break next summer to allow players to take part in the first Olympic baseball tournament in 12 years.

Jones, 34, made no mention of Olympic eligibility in a social media post announcing the signing. His Instagram avatar is a photo of him in a Team USA jersey from the World Baseball Classic.

Jones’ agent later said that Jones does have interest in playing for the U.S. in Tokyo, should an American team qualify in the spring.

“To play over in Japan has always been a desire of Adam’s, and the timing worked out that the Olympics happens to be played in Tokyo the first year of his contract,” Jones’ agent wrote in an email. “It wasn’t one of the factors on his decision BUT more of a [sic] addition to the overall package to decide to go.”

Jones called being part of the U.S.’ 2017 WBC title, “probably the best experience of my life so far, especially with sports,” according to The Associated Press. He was one of five players to be on the U.S. team at each of the last two World Baseball Classics.

The U.S. still faces a difficult task to qualify for the Tokyo Games. It lost to Mexico last month in its first of up to three chances at qualifying tournaments, using a roster of mostly double-A and triple-A caliber players.

Major Leaguers are not expected to be made available for qualifying or for the Tokyo Games.

The next two qualifying tournaments will be in late March (an Americas qualifier in Arizona) and early April (a final, global qualifying event in Chinese Taipei). It remains to be seen how MLB clubs will go about releasing minor leaguers for a tournament that will take place during spring training.

Jones could become the third player with prior MLB All-Star experience to compete at the Olympics from any nation, joining Australian catcher Dave Nilsson and Canadian pitcher Jason Dickson.

Jones made five All-Star teams during an 11-year stint with the Baltimore Orioles from 2008-18 before playing for the Arizona Diamondbacks last season.

Many players competed at the Olympics before making an MLB All-Star team, including Stephen Strasburg and Jason Giambi.

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Russia boxers to boycott Olympics if sanctions not lifted

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Russian boxers will only take part in the Tokyo Olympics if doping sanctions forcing them to compete as neutral athletes are overturned, the general secretary of the Russian Boxing Federation told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Umar Kremlev said he has spoken with the Olympic boxing team and they “unanimously” rejected the conditions laid out by the World Anti-Doping Agency as punishment for manipulating doping data.

The WADA sanctions, announced on Monday, ban the use of the Russian team name, flag or anthem at a range of major sports competitions over the next four years, including next year’s Olympics.

“They said we won’t go without our flag and anthem,” Kremlev said. “We aren’t going for medals, but for that feeling that I brought the highest honor home for my country.”

Separately, the speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament said Russia could create an alternative to the Olympics.

“This ruling show the clear crisis in international sports institutions. I believe that Russia could host its own games at home,” Valentina Matvienko said in comments reported by the Interfax news agency.

There is a precedent. After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Soviet Union refused to compete in the Olympics and hosted its own Spartakiads — named after the ancient rebel slave Spartacus — with a strong socialist slant. However, the Soviet Union began competing at the Olympics in 1952 and Russians generally take great pride in the country’s Olympic achievements since then.

If the sanctions aren’t overturned, Kremlev said Russian boxers would prefer to turn pro rather than compete at the Olympics.

“A world champion (in professional boxing) is better known than an Olympic champion,” Kremlev said, adding the Russian anthem would be played before pro title fights.

Kremlev said boxers are being asked to shoulder the blame for offenses committed in other sports. He said they would still stay at home even if Russia’s athletes in other sports decided to take part.

“If other sports are guilty and people have breached the WADA code, why are we punished?” he said. “We are for honest sport and against doping. We want our sport to be clean … If someone breaks the rules, we push them out.”

Russia is a major power in amateur and Olympic boxing. It hosted both men’s and women’s world championships this year, finishing at the top of the medals table at the women’s event and second in the men’s championships. The International Olympic Committee has taken direct charge of boxing at the Tokyo Olympics after criticizing chronic financial problems and infighting at the International Boxing Association.

Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov talked up Russia’s chances of overturning the WADA sanctions.

“I think that there is every basis to appeal the decision, because our experts have presented their position, and they have the same database as WADA does,” Kolobkov said in comments reported by state news agency TASS. “There is an answer to every question and the whole process is ahead of us.”

The official decision on whether to dispute the sanctions will be made on Dec. 19 by the Russian anti-doping agency’s supervisory board, but senior figures, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, have signaled their preference for taking the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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