Olylmpics: IOC probes Coles' Greek gift

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The Independent Online
THE INTERNATIONAL Olympic Committee is to investigate Australian member Phil Coles over $6,300 (pounds 4,000) in jewellery he and his then-wife were given by a businessman connected with Athens' failed bid for the 1996 Games.

The IOC's executive board said it was taking over the ethics investigation from a special panel that produced six expulsions. The move takes the investigation out of the control of Dick Pound, a vice president and chairman of the special panel who is a friend of Coles.

The board heard from Coles yesterday, hours after it received a fax from his ex-wife, Georgina, confirming that the gold and diamond necklace and cufflinks described in a series of news reports over the past week had been received on a visit to Greece in 1990.

"As a result of the fact that a communication has been received from a third party, the executive board decided to investigate the matter further," an IOC statement said.

Coles said he "appreciated the opportunity to explain the situation" to the executive board. He said he will remain on leave from the board of the organising committee for next year's Games in Sydney "until the matter is resolved".

Coles has repeatedly denied wrongdoing, and insisted yesterday that he would not resign. The jewellery is at the heart of the latest allegations that Coles repeatedly violated rules limiting gifts from bid cities to $150.

Georgina Coles sent a fax to IOC director general Francois Carrard and Pound, saying the jewellery was given to her during a visit to the Greek capital in 1990 "by a man associated with the Athens bid". Athens lost the 1996 race to Atlanta in September 1990.

In the fax, received at IOC headquarters yesterday from Australia, Georgina Coles said she had the cufflinks turned into earrings. She told the two IOC officials this would be her final comment on the matter.

Pound said before the board meeting that he had not seen the fax and could not comment. He had said that he would wait for Georgina Coles to provide information before deciding wether to investigate.

In Sydney, the Olympics boss Michael Knight called on Phil Coles to "stop the pain" by quitting the board of SOCOG, the organising committee for the 2000 Games.

Coles had stepped aside from the SOCOG board pending the IOC's inquiry into the Salt Lake City ethics report. Now he wants to come back, although Knight remains strongly opposed. "I would be very surprised if he walked back into the next SOCOG board meeting," Knight said.