Olympic Games: Salt Lake inquiry implicates 24

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The Independent Online
THE INTERNATIONAL Olympic Committee promised yesterday to consider expelling more members to restore its credibility and mollify sponsors as the Salt Lake City scandal broadened to implicate 20 per cent of IOC members.

"We will act decisively," said Anita DeFrantz, an IOC vice-president from the United States.

IOC leaders read the 300-page report issued on Tuesday by a Salt Lake ethics panel, a document detailing more than $1m (pounds 600,000) in cash payments and other favours lavished on IOC members during the city's winning bid for the 2002 Winter Games. The report linked an additional 10 IOC members to the scandal, bringing to 24 the number of Olympic delegates accused of accepting excessive benefits.

The IOC said the ethics report was being forwarded to its own six-man panel investigating the Salt Lake case. The IOC executive board expects to receive "the earliest possible recommendations" from that panel, the IOC said in a statement from Lausanne, Switzerland.

"The IOC remains fully committed to investigating and taking action based on all available evidence," the statement said.

Last month, the IOC panel identified 14 members involved in alleged excesses stemming from Salt Lake's bid. Nine of those members have either resigned or been expelled by the IOC executive board. Three others - including the executive board member Kim Un-yong of South Korea - remain under investigation, one received a warning and one has died.

The IOC noted that last month's expulsions were "based on evidence available at the time." Further expulsions are now likely before the special IOC assembly in Lausanne on 17 to 18 March.

"If you find something that's a real breach, we basically have only one sanction, and that's expulsion," said Dick Pound, the IOC vice-president who is leading the internal inquiry.

Jacques Rogge, an IOC executive board delegate who is on Pound's panel, said the commission would meet soon to review the report, and said he was not surprised that more members were implicated.

He said a key issue for the IOC panel will be to determine whether members were guilty of actual ethical violations. "You have to differentiate between what is a breach of the line, and what is so-called `lavish treatment'," he said.

Juan Antonio Samaranch, the IOC president, has written to all cities which bid for the Olympics of 1996, 2000 and 2004, asking for any documented evidence of misconduct.

The IOC's marketing director, Michael Payne, who is in the United States meeting Olympic sponsors, claimed that the IOC is doing everything in its power to stamp out corruption and institute reform. "If the crisis is handled quickly, the movement will come out in a year or two a much stronger organisation," he said. "The results of the steps taken over the last six weeks are a clear indication of that. In the next six weeks, there will be more proof of how serious the organization is."

On Tuesday, the head of one Olympic sponsor, John Hancock Insurance, criticised the IOC's handling of the crisis and suggested that Samaranch's tenure may be running out. But Payne rejected the continuing calls from outside the IOC for Samaranch to resign, saying the 78-year-old president is needed to lead the house-cleaning efforts. "If the president stepped down, you would have a presidential election with all the instability that would bring," Payne said. "That's the last thing you want at this stage."

Payne downplayed the decision by John Hancock to cancel negotiations with NBC for $20m in television advertising. "They aren't withdrawing from their sponsorship," he said. "This issue is related to a media purchase, which is separate from the sponsorship. Several Olympic sponsors don't advertise at all on the broadcast."

Despite John Hancock's move, Payne said there was no crack in support from the Olympic sponsors who pay millions of dollars to help finance the Games. "The sponsors are standing, first of all, behind the Games, and, second, behind the steps and action the IOC, Samaranch and the executive board are taking," Payne said.