French prosecutors investigating 2016 and 2020 Olympic bids

AP News
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Posted: Mar 02, 2016 1:10 PM

PARIS (AP) — French prosecutors confirmed they have widened their investigation into corruption in athletics to include bidding for the 2016 and 2020 Olympics.

"At this stage, we are just making verifications, we cannot prejudge the outcome of the investigation," Franck Charon, the spokesman for the national financial prosecutions office in Paris, told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The 2016 and 2020 Olympics were awarded to Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo.

After The Guardian newspaper first reported that the investigation had been widened, the International Olympic Committee said it has seen "no evidence" so far to support allegations of possible bribery in the bidding for the games. The IOC added it was in "close contact" with French prosecutors, who have been investigating bribery and money-laundering involving doping cover-ups at the IAAF.

In January, The Guardian reported it saw leaked emails linking the son of former IAAF President Lamine Diack to alleged "parcels" to be delivered to six IOC members during the bidding for the 2016 Games.

The emails were sent by Papa Massata Diack to a Qatari business executive in May 2008, the newspaper said. The Qatari capital, Doha, was bidding for the 2016 Olympics at the time.

The email suggested that six people, referred to by their initials which corresponded with six IOC members at the time, requested "to have their parcels delivered through Special Adviser in Monaco," The Guardian said. It said the "special adviser" was believed to be Lamine Diack, who was then an IOC member.

The Guardian didn't know if any "parcels" were sent. In any case, a month after the email was sent, Doha failed to make the list of finalists in the 2016 bidding.

Charon had no comments on The Guardian's reports but said investigators were trying to find out if "some of the people" who have already been facing preliminary charges in relation to corruption in athletics committed infractions during the bidding process for the games.

Asked about the French probe, IOC president Thomas Bach defended the organization's record in the fight against corruption.

"We have all rules and instruments in place to fight corruption with zero tolerance," Bach said at a news conference after an IOC executive board meeting in Lausanne.

Papa Massata Diack was banned for life by the IAAF ethics commission in January for corruption and cover-up allegations linked to Russian doping. He has appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. He's wanted for questioning by prosecutors in France, and Interpol has issued a wanted notice for him.

The elder Diack, who headed the IAAF for 16 years until he stepped down in August, is accused by French prosecutors of pocketing more than 1 million euros ($1.1 million) from bribes in exchange for covering up doping cases.

Lamine Diack resigned as an honorary IOC member in November, a day after he was provisionally suspended by the IOC executive board. He served as a full IOC member for 15 years until 2014.

Possible wrongdoing involving Lamine Diack and the 2020 Olympic bid race was cited in a World Anti-Doping Agency commission report into IAAF corruption. A footnote to the report indicated that Diack was prepared to sell his vote in exchange for a $5 million sponsorship of IAAF events.

Bach, who reiterated how the IOC suspended Lamine Diack as an honorary member after he was implicated in IAAF corruption, insisted the IOC is "proactive" in the fight against corruption.

"We are not waiting to get information from outside, we are looking for information actively ourselves in order to address all potential issues at the earliest possible moment and with zero tolerance," he said. "When the first rumors came up, we have addressed and asked the French authorities to provide us with the necessary information. And so far we have no evidence whatsoever in this respect, and this has just been confirmed by the French authorities in their statement today."

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Steve Wilson in Lausanne, Switzerland, contributed to this report.