Originally created 02/11/99

IOC promises to continue crackdown on corrupt members



LONDON -- With 20 percent of its members implicated in the Salt Lake scandal, the International Olympic Committee promised Wednesday to consider expelling more of them to restore its damaged credibility and assuage big-money sponsors.

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

IOC leaders read the 300-page report issued Tuesday by a Salt Lake ethics panel, a document detailing more than $1 million in cash payments and other favors 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 -- a fifth of the total membership -- 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 decision-making IOC executive board expects to receive "the earliest possible recommendations" from the 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 powerful 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, March 17-18.

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

IOC executive board delegate Jacques Rogge, a member of Pound's panel, said the commission will likely meet soon to review the report.

Rogge said he was not surprised that more members were implicated.

"I knew more names would come up," he said.

Rogge 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.

IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch has also written to all cities which bid for the Olympics of 1996 through 2004, asking for any documented evidence of misconduct. The deadline for responses is Feb. 15, meaning even more members could be implicated before the March meeting.

IOC marketing director Michael Payne, on a trip to the United States to meet with Olympic sponsors, said the IOC is doing everything in its power to stamp out corruption and institute reform.

"Has the IOC been damaged?" Payne said. "Yes, clearly it has. On the other hand, it's the opportunity to clean house and to reform. You have to take two or three steps backwards to move one step forward."

On Tuesday, the head of Olympics sponsor John Hancock insurance criticized 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. You need a firm hand at the top to drive through the changes."

Payne played down the decison by John Hancock, one of the IOC's international corporate sponsors, to cancel negoatiations with NBC for $20 million in ads.

"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. There's no obligation."

Despite John Hancock's move, Payne said there was no crack in support from the Olympic sponsors who pay tens of 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.

Payne spoke by telephone from New York, where he will meet this week with Olympic sponsors. He also is to travel to Australia later this month to meet with sponsors of the 2000 Sydney Games.

A key test for IOC leaders is how they handle the case of Kim, the South Korean executive board member and highest-ranking official implicated in the Salt Lake scandal.

Kim is one of three members -- along with Russia's Vitaly Smirnov and Ivory Coast's Louis Guirandou-N'Diaye -- still under investigation by Pound's panel.

Kim was further implicated in the Salt Lake report. It found that the bid committee paid $45,000 toward the salary of his son, John, to work at Keystone Communications, a satellite communications company based in Salt Lake. Keystone's former chief executive said the bid committee paid all of the costs of John Kim's employment -- $75,000 to $100,000.

Kim claimed the report had exonerated him and his son.

"Any secret deal between the bid committee and Keystone was a contrivance solely between those two entities, and was wholly unknown to either Dr. Kim or to his son," Kim's lawyer, Howard Graff, said in a statement.

The ethics report also said Kim sought bid committee help in getting a visa and admission aid for a Russian student at the University of Utah. The committee spent $15,000 on the student, the report said.

Kim, 67, has been considered a leading contender to succeed Samaranch, whose term expires in 2001.

"Such persistent attempts to smear both my reputation and the leadership of president Samaranch are political and designed to undermine the stability of his leadership, as well as to affect the succession of his presidency," Kim said.

"When the time comes, I will fight back," he said. "I have a lot of ammunition."

Kim said he did not expect his opponents to try to expel him.

"That's too risky for them," he said.

In other developments:

-- Australia's Phil Coles, one of the 10 new IOC members implicated in the Salt Lake case, stepped down from the Sydney Olympic organizing committee board, pending an IOC inquiry.

The Salt Lake report said Coles and Guatemala's Willi Kaltschmitt made four visits together, with their families, to the United States -- including a trip to the Super Bowl in Miami, hosted by Salt Lake City bid director Tom Welch, at a cost of $19,991.

"Phil categorically denies that he visited Salt Lake City four times during Salt Lake City's candidature," Coles' lawyer, Simon Rofe, said. "It is regrettable that the board of ethics chose to make this serious allegation of unethical conduct without first putting it to Phil in order that he could respond and set the record straight."

-- Barbados IOC member Austin Sealy, who was implicated in the Salt Lake report, denied any wrongdoing. Bid records showed $3,000 a month passed through a company affiliated with a consultant to Sealy.

"I have never been solicited for my vote, never been offered any payment, never been offered any inducement," he said. "The bottom line is that I know nothing about any payments. I'm completely in the dark about this."

-- The Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter reported that Stockholm's unsuccessful bid for the 2004 Olympics paid for the medical care of IOC members or their relatives on five occasions. The newspaper said each of the payments amounted to more than the $150 limit for gifts.

-- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Olympic chief Billy Payne suggested a college tennis scholarship, medical treatment and free plane tickets as gifts for IOC members in a memo written before the city won the 1996 Games, but immediately dismissed the idea.