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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

Richard Callaghan, figure skating coach, banned for life

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Richard Callaghan, a figure skating coach best known for helping Tara Lipinski earn 1998 Olympic gold, was ruled permanently ineligible for violations including sexual misconduct involving a minor.

Callaghan can still appeal the sexual misconduct violation, according to the U.S. Center for SafeSport, a watchdog for U.S. Olympic sports organizations that updated Callaghan’s status Wednesday.

He was first suspended in March 2018 pending an investigation into allegations first made against him more than 20 years ago.

Earlier this month, another former skater, Adam Schmidt, said in a lawsuit that he was sexually molested as a teenager by Callaghan starting in 1999.

Callaghan was previously accused of sexual misconduct in April 1999 by Craig Maurizi, one of his former students and later an assistant to him in San Diego and Detroit.

Maurizi told The New York Times that Callaghan had engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with him beginning when he was 15 years old. The alleged misconduct had begun nearly 20 years earlier. Callaghan denied the allegations.

In March 2018, Callaghan told ABC News: “That’s 19 or 20 years ago. I have nothing to say.”

Maurizi’s previous grievance against Callaghan with the U.S. Figure Skating Association, the precursor to U.S. Figure Skating, was dismissed on procedural grounds.

He was Callaghan’s assistant at the Detroit Skating Club until they split after Lipinski turned pro, left Callaghan and decided to train with Maurizi.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Pita Taufatofua, Tonga flag bearer, finishes last in kayak debut

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Pita Taufatofua, the Tonga Olympic flag bearer who went viral in Rio and PyeongChang, began his quest to make a third straight Olympics in a third different sport with a last-place finish in his opening-round heat at the world sprint kayak championships in Hungary on Wednesday.

The start of the heat appeared delayed as Taufatofua struggled to get his kayak into position in the water. He was left at the start as the other six kayakers raced out and finished between 33 and 40 seconds. Taufatofua took 58.19 seconds, the slowest of 53 finishers among seven total heats.

“Well that was slightly better than the first time I competed in Taekwondo or skiing,” was tweeted from Taufatofua’s account. “Would have liked to start facing the right way but that’s life.”

Taufatofua, 35, was the oldest athlete in the heat by nearly a decade. He is also entered in doubles races with Tonga canoe federation president Malakai Ahokava with heats Thursday and Friday.

Taufatofua hopes to compete at the Tokyo Olympics in taekwondo, where he competed in Rio, and in sprint kayak.

But he hasn’t competed in taekwondo in three years and just started training kayak this spring. At worlds, Taufatofua told the BBC he is still having trouble staying afloat in the water.

Taufatofua said in announcing the new sport in April that it would be “largely impossible” to qualify for Tokyo. He could be the first athlete to compete in a different sport in three straight Olympics (Summer and Winter) since the Winter Games began in 1924, according to the OlyMADMen.

“It’s certainly going to be the greatest challenge that I’ve ever had to embark on,” he said then.

Taufatofua’s results at worlds this week has little bearing on his Olympic qualifying prospects. Rather, he just needed to compete in Hungary to stay eligible for the Olympics.

The key will be an Oceania qualifying event early next year, where one Olympic bid is available. He will likely have to beat the best kayakers from Australia and New Zealand to grab it. Australian Stephen Bird placed eighth at the Rio Olympics and 11th at the 2018 World Championships.

If Taufatofua fails, he could receive a special tripartite invitation sometimes offered to smaller nations like Tonga.

Taufatofua became a social-media celebrity by marching into the Rio Olympic Opening Ceremony shirtless and oiled up. He then lost in the first round via mercy rule in his taekwondo tournament.

He made a quixotic bid for the PyeongChang Winter Games in cross-country skiing — and accomplished the feat, barely, in a sport that has lenient qualifying requirements for nations with a lack of Winter Games depth.

Taufatofua finished 114th out of 116 in his 15km Olympic cross-country skiing race, nearly 23 minutes behind the winner.

If Taufatofua is able to carry the Tongan flag at a third Opening Ceremony, he will definitely be shirtless again, in a similar outfit to what he wore in Rio and PyeongChang, he said last year.

MORE: Five-time Olympic kayak medalist banned four years

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