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Sergey Bubka, Alexander Popov deny Rio Olympic vote-buying claims

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Olympic gold medalists Sergey Bubka and Alexander Popov denied claims made in a Brazilian court they were paid to vote for Rio de Janeiro’s winning bid to host the 2016 Summer Games.

The International Olympic Committee said Friday its ethics commission has contacted both men about the allegation by former Rio state governor Sergio Cabral, who is serving a prison sentence for corruption.

Cabral’s testimony Thursday echoed details of an alleged Olympic vote-buying scheme in 2009 already in the public domain.

Ongoing criminal investigations in Brazil and France have implicated Brazil’s former top Olympic official Carlos Nuzman, then-IAAF president Lamine Diack and his son, and then-IOC executive board member Frank Fredericks.

Pole vault great Bubka and swimming star Popov were IOC members voting in October 2009 in a four-candidate contest that included Chicago.

“I completely reject all the false claims made by the former Rio State governor,” Bubka, now an IOC executive board member, said in a statement Friday. “My lawyers will write to Mr. Diack to ask him to explain the allegations of Mr. Cabral who wrongly claims in his testimony that Mr. Diack could secure my vote.”

Popov, who is now an IOC honorary member after having full membership from 2000-16, said he didn’t vote for Rio in any of the three rounds of balloting.

“I did not participate in any negotiations and I am not familiar with the topics and with the people who are mentioned … and have never had contact with them,” the Russian swimmer said in a statement.

Popov said he was seeking to cooperate with the IOC’s ethics investigators, and joined Bubka in saying they were preparing law suits for defamation.

Bubka is the 1988 Olympic champion in pole vault and held the world record for 30 years until 2014. Popov is arguably the greatest ever men’s sprint swimmer and won the Olympic 50m and 100m freestyles in 1992 and 1996.

They are the latest high-profile names in Olympic circles to be linked to vote-buying investigations for the 2016 Rio Olympics and 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Most of the evidence detailed connects Papa Massata Diack, the son of long-time IOC member Lamine Diack, to irregular payments of hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars.

Fredericks, a four-time Olympic sprint medalist from Namibia, was suspended by the IOC in 2017 after French investigators revealed he received a $300,000 payment on the day of the 2016 Olympics vote in October 2009. It allegedly came from a Brazilian businessman and was routed via Papa Diack.

Fredericks denied wrongdoing and said the money was for consultancy work in athletics.

On Thursday, Cabral told a judge he paid $1.5 million in bribes through intermediaries to Lamine Diack, to secure up to six votes in the meeting of around 100 IOC members awarding the 2016 Summer Games. Cabral added that another $500,000 was paid later to Diack’s son to secure three more votes for Rio.

Cabral repeated publicly known claims that Nuzman handled negotiations, and the money allegedly came from businessman Arthur Soares.

Nuzman is due to stand trial for money laundering, tax evasion, and racketeering. French authorities said last month they want both Diacks to stand trial on corruption charges. The elder Diack has been detained in France since 2015 and his son has evaded questioning in their native Senegal.

Fredericks faces preliminary charges of passive corruption and money laundering.

The IOC said Friday is it “fully committed to address any issues” with Olympic bidding which has been reformed since 2013 when Tokyo was awarded the 2020 Summer Games.

“With these reforms the IOC has turned the page with regard to good governance and in particular the procedure of the election of host cities,” the Olympic body said.

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Olympic ‘host’ can now be multiple countries as IOC changes bid, election processes

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The Olympic “host” can now officially be multiple countries.

The International Olympic Committee approved bidding and host-city election reforms on Wednesday, a month after the IOC Executive Board put the measures up for approval. IOC President Thomas Bach said that an election could “come to a point where there is only one candidate being proposed.”

“This is the evolution of the Olympic Agenda 2020 revolution, as we must continue to keep up with the fast pace of change in our current world,” Bach said, referring to earlier changes to the bid process and Olympic program from 2014. “Flexibility is a necessity to ensure good governance and to have sustainable Olympic Games in the future. We will do that while maintaining the magic of the Games, the fundamental principle of universality and our commitment to having athletes at the center of everything we do.”

The definition of an Olympic host was tweaked to make it clear that it does not necessarily refer to a single city but can also mean multiple cities, regions and even countries. The 2026 Winter Games will be the first Olympics with multiple official host cities — Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo in Italy.

While Olympic competition has been held in multiple countries — notably equestrian at the 1956 Melbourne Games held in Stockholm — the official Olympic host was always one city.

“It’s not an encouragement to spread the Games out as much as possible,” Bach said in May. “It may be preferable to have a region as a signatory or an additional signatory of the host city contract rather than just a city, and therefore, we wanted to enjoy this flexibility. This, on the other hand, does not change our vision, our request and our focus on having not only an Olympic Village, but to have an Olympic center.”

Flexibility was also added to the timing of naming Olympic hosts. A section of the Olympic Charter mandating that the Games are awarded in an election seven years in advance was deleted.

Recall that two years ago, the 2024 and 2028 Olympics were awarded at the same time to Paris and Los Angeles, which were the last remaining candidates for 2024.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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IOC strips Olympic status from boxing body AIBA

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — The IOC stripped Olympic status from troubled boxing body AIBA on Wednesday and will now organize qualifying and final tournaments for the 2020 Tokyo Games.

AIBA had created “very serious reputational, legal and financial risks” for the IOC and its American stakeholders, Olympic inquiry panel chairman Nenad Lalovic said.

The election of AIBA president Gafur Rakhimov, who is under United States federal sanctions for suspected links to eastern European organized crime, prodded the IOC last year to investigate boxing’s governance, debts and integrity of Olympic bouts.

International Olympic Committee members voted to endorse the executive board’s recommendation last month to suspend AIBA’s Olympic status.

Lausanne-based AIBA has said it is near bankruptcy with debts of about $17 million. It is cut off from future income from Tokyo revenues, and the 2019 world championships for men and women in Russia are no longer Olympic qualifiers.

AIBA has an emergency meeting scheduled for Thursday in Geneva, which an IOC delegate is scheduled to attend.

AIBA hoped for a reprieve by Rakhimov leaving his duties to an interim replacement in March, though he could choose to return at any time this year.

“These risks don’t disappear by the mere fact of Mr. Rakhimov ‘stepping aside,’” IOC board member Lalovic said, noting the Uzbek’s “level of influence and control remains uncertain.”

In December 2017, the U.S. Treasury Department noted “Rakhimov has been described as having moved from extortion and car theft to becoming one of Uzbekistan’s leading criminals and an important person involved in the heroin trade.”

The IOC had to avoid the consequences of fixed bouts or suspect results in Tokyo, said Morinari Watanabe, who leads the Olympic panel overseeing the next Olympic boxing competitions.

“It’s not just losing trust in boxing. It’s lost trust in the Olympic Games, it’s lost trust in the IOC,” said Watanabe, the Japanese president of the International Gymnastics Federation.

IOC president Thomas Bach said, “we are all concerned with the refereeing.”

Boxers’ lack of faith in AIBA at each Olympics from 2008 to 2016 were raised by Lalovic, who led a three-member inquiry team.

Those doubts persisted despite AIBA reviews after each Olympics, Lalovic noted to an audience that included former AIBA president C.K. Wu, an IOC member for 31 years.

Wu oversaw each post-Olympic integrity review. He was ousted by AIBA officials two years ago amid a deepening financial crisis and protests about his often secretive leadership style.

Qualifying tournaments for Tokyo are intended to be held in four continents from January through March, likely in London, China, Senegal and Argentina. All are recent or future hosts of Olympic boxing competitions. A final global qualifier is expected to be held in Japan.

That would give each boxer at least two chances to qualify for the eight men’s weight classes and five women’s classes, the IOC said.

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