POSTED: March 8th 2017

JOHN GOODBODY: Fredericks stepping down is the right move as questions remain

THE JOHN GOODBODY COLUMN / An authoritative and exclusive series from Sports Features Communications

(SFC) Just when we thought we had possibly heard the last of the Rio Olympics, with all the worries that the Games produced, we now learn that there are questions about how they were given to the Brazilian city in the first place.

Frankie Fredericks, the quadruple Olympic sprint silver medallist and a significant figure in the International Olympic Committee (IOC), has been forced to step down as the chair of the IOC's Evaluation Commission for the 2024 Games, saying that his decision was in the "best interests" of the Movement. He is right.

This withdrawal follows allegations by the respected French newspaper Le Monde about the 49 year-old Namibian. It has reported that the French police are investigating a company, connected with a leading Brazilian businessman, who is believed to have paid $1.5 million to a another company established by Papa Massata Diack, the son of Lamine Diack, the former President of the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF). Both father and son are already the subject of police inquiries.

US tax officials have reported that Papa Diack sent $300,000 through a firm, Pamodzi Consulting,  to Yemil, a company in the Seychelles, with which Fredericks is associated. The transfer allegedly occurred just three days before the IOC meeting in Copenhagen in 2009, when Rio was awarded the 2016 Olympics, and when both Lamine Diack and Fredericks were voting IOC members.

Fredericks, who denies any impropriety, insists that the money was for settling a marketing contract set up two years earlier and used for promoting several international events for the IAAF. He says the timing of the payment is coincidental.

He added: "I categorically deny any direct or indirect involvement in any untoward conduct and confirm that I have never breached any law, regulation or rule of ethics in respect of any IOC election process. The articles do not only target me. They target the integrity of the IOC bidding and elections process for host cities altogether."

Quite rightly, however, the IOC Ethics and Compliance Commission are now investigating the issue, which has already had a serious effect on Fredericks. He has also felt obliged to stand down as a member of the IAAF Taskforce, which is overseeing Russia's possible reinstatement following the drugs scandals. In addition, he has stepped down as the chair of the IOC Co-ordination Commission for the 2018 Summer Youth Olympics in 2018.

The organisers of the Rio Olympics immediately dismissed any malpractice when they obtained the 2016 Games, pointing out that Rio had beaten Madrid in the final round 66-32, with the implication that there was no need for them to 'buy' any votes since the margin was overwhelming. In any case, they denied any bribes had taken place.

On the face of it, this is true but when one re-examines the poll, it is evident just how tight the first round was: Madrid 28, Rio 26, Tokyo 22 and Chicago 18. A few votes either way and any of the candidate cities could have been eliminated. In fact, to everyone's surprise, given that Barack Obama was then at the height of his international popularity, it was his home city of Chicago which went out. And both Lamine Diack and Frankie Fredericks commanded widespread influence in Olympic circles.

What is clear is that the IOC Ethics Commission must do a thorough inquiry into these allegations. We are already seeing the lack of interest by cities to bid for both the Summer and Winter Games. Any evidence of further malpractice will further damage the Olympic brand.

** JOHN GOODBODY will cover the 2016 Olympics for The Sunday Times, his 13th successive Summer Games and is the author of the audio book A History of the Olympics, read by Barry Davies, the BBC commentator. He was Sports News Correspondent of The Times 1986-2007, for whom he received journalistic awards in all three decades on the paper, including Sports Reporter of The Year in 2001.  

****The views expressed are the author's own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sports Features Communications.

Keywords · John Goodbody · Olympics

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