Unethical conduct allegations draw probe

Updated: August 1, 2004, 12:34 PM ET
Associated Press

LONDON -- The International Olympic Committee is investigating allegations of unethical conduct in the host city bidding process for the 2012 Summer Games.

The move, centered on accusations in an upcoming British Broadcasting Corp. program, comes six years after the IOC was rocked by the Salt Lake City bid scandal.

The IOC said Thursday it has asked its ethics commission to look into the points raised by the BBC investigative news show "Panorama."

The program, titled "Buying the Games," is scheduled to air next Wednesday. A Panorama news release said the show, based on a yearlong undercover investigation, "reveals that the votes of some members of the International Olympic Committee are still being offered for sale."

IOC communications director Giselle Davies said the committee "has been made aware by the media of alleged inappropriate conduct within the Olympic movement linked with the bid process" and has turned over the case to the ethics panel.

A letter announcing the move was sent Wednesday to all 100-plus IOC members, as well as officials of the five cities bidding for the 2012 Games, organizers of the Athens Olympics and future host cities, and corporate sponsors.

"The IOC ethics commission is at the disposal of anyone with information that might be relevant to this matter," the letter said.

The commission was set up following the Salt Lake City case, which broke in late 1998 and led to the resignation or expulsion of 10 IOC members. Delegates had received cash, gifts and other inducements from leaders of Salt Lake's winning bid for the 2002 Winter Games.

Dick Pound, the senior Canadian member who led the IOC's internal inquiry into the Salt Lake scandal, said he didn't know the details of the latest allegations.

"Assuming it's a genuine thing, and it's a sting operation, it is pretty disappointing," he said. "I assume the ethics commission is going to take a pretty close look at it."

The Salt Lake scandal prompted the IOC to adopt a series of reforms, including a ban on gift-giving and member visits to bid cities.

New York, Paris, London, Madrid and Moscow are vying for the 2012 Games. The IOC will select the host city in July 2005.

Rules restricting lobbying have been put into place for the campaign.

Davies said the IOC was acting swiftly to deal with any allegations of impropriety.

"The IOC has the appropriate body and procedures in place with its ethics commission to deal with any ethical issues, and has acted quickly by officially asking the ethics commission to investigate," she said.

Davies said she had been contacted by the BBC program and asked to respond to a number of allegations of possible misconduct. She said she had suggested the program pass on the information to the ethics panel.

It was unclear whether the show implicates any IOC members or other individuals in irregularities. Davies said the information presented to her by the BBC lacked "concrete and factual information."

In its release, Panorama said it sought "to find out what it takes to get the games, and it would appear that the answer is simple -- cash."

The program said reporters posed as consultants acting for clients with business interests in East London who wanted the games to come to the British capital.

"The men who say they can buy these votes are professional agents who, in the past, have been paid hundred of thousands of dollars by previous bid cities to help get IOC votes," the release said.

"These men have connections to influential figures within the IOC. All claim they already have been approached for their services by cities bidding for the 2012."

The BBC's press office said Thursday the program was still in the editing process and it had no other information to provide.

Leaders of London's 2012 committee said they have provided the IOC panel with copies of correspondence between the bid team and the Panorama producers which `reaffirmed the bid's total commitment and adherence to the ethical rules of the IOC."

"London 2012 had no knowledge of the approaches being made apparently on behalf of London businesses," bid chairman Sebastian Coe said. "London 2012 has acted properly and ethically throughout the bidding process and we totally support the IOC's decision to refer these allegations to the ethics commission."


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press