(ATR) Leaders of the U.S. Olympic Committee aim squarely at two devils haunting the Olympic Movement: corruption and doping.
IOC member and USOC President, Larry Probst blasted his IOC colleagues who have taken cash and other favors to sway their vote for Olympic host cities.
Last week the IOC took action against Carlos Nuzman, who as an IOC member in 2009 is accused of taking part in a scheme to bribe IOC members for their support of Rio 2016. Nuzman was suspended from the honorary membership and has since relinquished his presidency of the Olympic Committee of Brazil and the organizing committee for Rio 2016.
"As IOC members, our job is to advance the Movement, and provide opportunities for the world’s greatest athletes to shine on the ultimate stage. It is not our job to enrich ourselves, financially or through illicit power-grabs," Probst told an audience of 300 sports leaders in Colorado Springs.
Probst, speaking at the annual U.S. Olympic Assembly, Probst delivered an outspoken attack on the morals of IOC colleagues who would exchange their votes for cash.
"The IOC Executive Board’s action taken last week suspending Carlos Nuzman and the Brazilian NOC was entirely appropriate. All forms of corruption, vote buying and influence peddling must be eliminated," said Probst.
In 2009, less than a year after taking on the USOC chairmanship, Probst and the USOC were gobsmacked at the IOC Session in Copenhagen when Chicago was the first of five cities voted out of the race for the 2016 Games won eventually by Rio de Janeiro.
"The fact is, some have clearly acted in ways that are antithetical to the ideals we seek to advance, and it has been tolerated for too long," Probst declared.
"It is time for the Olympic Movement to rid itself of the bad actors, and to demonstrate that a zero tolerance policy is more than just rhetoric," Probst said in his remarks.
Speaking to Around the Rings following the speech, Probst didn’t indicate what extra steps the IOC needs to take to resolve the lingering suspicions of vote buying. But after years of experience in the U.S. corporate sector, he says the IOC needs to act quickly to staunch the damage to its image. He says he’ll be speaking directly to IOC President Thomas Bach later this month when the two meet in Olympia, Greece.
Probst expressed the hope that newly selected IOC Ethics Commission chair Ban Ki Moon would be able to confront the vote-buying scandal.
USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun took aim at IOC inaction so far on the doping controversyfrom the Sochi Olympics. Two commissions of the IOC are said to be close to completing their work on whether Russian doping samples were manipulated to mask positive results of medal winners. But with the next Winter Olympics less than four months away, patience is growing short around the world, as well as the U.S.
"It is beyond frustrating that the McLaren Report was released 15 months ago, and we are about to head into a new winter season where Olympic team spots will be won and lost, and not a single Games-bound athlete has been disqualified for PyeongChang based upon the McLaren Report, nor has a single Sochi medal been forfeited," said Blackmun in his address to the Olympic Assembly.
"I believe the IOC is pursuing the findings of the McLaren Report both in earnest and in good faith, and I believe the IOC when they say there will be consequences forthe bad actors. But at some point, justice delayed is justice denied, and we are fast approaching that point," said Blackmun, referencing the 2015 report from Canadian jurist Richard McLaren that set in motion the IOC inquiries into the extent of the doping regime in Russia.
"The time for action is now. Our athletes have led the way and it’s time for their leaders, those of us in this room and similar ones around the world, to act and to do so while it still makes a difference. We have discussed this issue long enough and our athletes must not only be told, but see, that the playing field is level," said Blackmun.
"To our athletes – we hear you and we are with you in this fight," he concluded, drawing applause from a crowd that included active and retired Olympians and Paralympians.
Also in his speech, Blackmun urged more financial support for the nascent U.S. Center for Safe Sport. Formed to protect athletes from sexual abuse by coaches and any other individuals associated with sport, the center has been established with $13.5 million from the USOC and National Governing Bodies.
More funding is needed Blackmun warns.
"But for this independent entity to thrive, and do the critically important work it was established to do, now and for decades to come, it needs more money. The Center needs outside foundations. It needs support from professional leagues and sports organizations. And the government needs to commit to child safety in the same way it has committed to anti-doping enforcement," Blackmun said.
The Olympic Assembly runs through Friday with meetings of NGBs, athletes and the USOC Board of Directors.
Written and reported in Colorado Springs by Ed Hula.
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