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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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Russian doping: 100 ‘strong cases’ found by WADA

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — More than 100 “strong cases” of suspected Russian doping are being prepared using data retrieved from the Moscow testing laboratory.

World Anti-Doping Agency president Craig Reedie said Wednesday it is “packaging evidence” for sports governing bodies to prosecute the highest priority cases.

Only data for “suspicious cases” is being provided, Reedie said, adding he expects more than 100 files in the “first wave of strong cases against those we suspect of cheating.”

Data and samples were eventually retrieved this year from the Moscow lab covering drug testing up to 2015 — a period when Russian officials routinely covered up cases.

Reedie said all priority cases will have been investigated by the end of this year.

“Significant progress continues to be made,” said the outgoing WADA president, who leaves office in November.

MORE: Russia’s top track and field athlete slams ‘never-ending disgrace’

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Up to 70 Russian athletes could face doping charges

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MOSCOW (AP) — The number of Russian athletes accused of receiving banned treatments from a doctor could rise to 70, the country’s anti-doping agency said Wednesday.

The agency, known as RUSADA, previously said Monday it would file cases against 33 athletes from numerous sports suspected of receiving banned intravenous infusions.

RUSADA chief executive Yuri Ganus said that is just the “first package” of cases and a planned second package could take the number to 70.

The cases are all linked to a sports academy in central Russia’s Chuvashia region, a major center for track and field. RUSADA said many of the athletes were underage when they were given the infusions and some come from cycling, skiing and Paralympic sports.

They come as Russia seeks to have its ban from international track and field lifted in time to field a full team at the world championships in September and October. The Russian track federation has been banned since 2015 for widespread doping, though dozens from the country are allowed to compete as neutral athletes.

Ganus accused the Russian track federation, known as RusAF, of prioritizing cosmetic reforms over real cultural change.

“Over the course of four years we’ve spent a lot of time presenting athletics in a beautiful condition,” Ganus said. “We have enough material to say that RusAF cannot be reinstated in its current condition.”

Ganus also revealed that RUSADA is under two investigations from Russian authorities into its own conduct.

Ganus said Russian prosecutors were investigating a complaint that RUSADA employees exceeded their authority while looking into whether high jumper Danil Lysenko presented forged medical documents as an alibi for failing to notify drug testers of his whereabouts. Ganus said he believed the case originated with a complaint from someone unhappy with RUSADA’s work on doping cases.

The other matter involves tax authorities looking into a contract signed between RUSADA and the World Anti-Doping Agency, Ganus said.

RUSADA was reinstated by WADA last year, in the face of criticism from some Western athletes who believed Russia had not done enough to reform. Since then, RUSADA has increased its level of drug testing and pursued high-profile investigations into cases such as that of Lysenko and of seven athletes accused of training in secret in Kyrgyzstan with a banned coach.

MORE: Russia’s top track and field athlete slams ‘never-ending disgrace’

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