Lollipop allegation costs candidate chance of becoming IOC member

Saturday, 11 August 2012
By Duncan Mackay at the Olympic Village in London

Koji Murofushi_with_Japanese_flagAugust 11 - A long shadow has been cast over the election for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Athletes' Commission after two of the four elected candidates were disqualified for breaching the rules - including one allegedly for distributing free lollipops to voters. 

Olympic gold medallists, Japanese hammer thrower Koji Murofushi (pictured) and Chinese Taipei's Mu-Yen Chu, both finished among the top four of the 21 candidates chosen to serve eight year terms on the IOC but will not be allowed to take up their places because they allegedly broke strict rules on electioneering.

The places have instead been awarded to Zimbabwe swimmer Kirsty Coventry and French canoeist Tony Estanguet, who join Slovakian shooter Danka Barteková and Australia rower James Tomkins.

The decision to disqualify 37-year-old Murofushi, the 2004 Athens champion, who won a bronze medal here, is an embarrassment for Tokyo 2020, who had hoped he would be elected to the IOC to help their bid for the Olympics and Paralympics.

Chu, 30, was the first athlete from Chinese Taipei to win an Olympic gold medal, when he claimed victory in the -58 kilogram category in Athens.

He also won a silver medal at Beijing four years ago. 

Murofushi and Chu had both received written warnings earlier in the election about their campaign methods. 

The Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) claimed Murofushi was being punished for calling up the IOC website on his iPad to explain about the election procedure to a fellow athlete.

JOC official Yasuhiro Nakamori claimed they had photographic evidence proving that Murofushi was not showing material about himself, as he was accused of doing.

"He was in no way promoting his own candidature," said Nakamori, who is the director of the JOC's President's office.

Murofushi is also accused of distributing promotional literature to athletes in the Olympic Village's dining hall, which the JOC deny.

The JOC are planning to appeal against the decision to expel Murofushi, who last year was awarded the International Fair Play Award by the International Association of Athletics Federations.

"We believe that [Murofushi] has conducted himself in accordance with all the rules," said Noriyuki Ichihara, the secretary general of the JOC. 

But they do not plan to lodge their complaint immediately.

"Murofushi has many things he would like to convey," said Ichihara.

"But he also won a bronze medal here.

"He doesn't want his experience tarnished, so it would have to be afterwards."

Murofushi claimed he was in the dark about what he was supposed to have done wrong.

"It's a real shame about this election," he said.

"I still don't know the truth of the matter but I would like to thank everybody for their support.

"From now on I will concentrate my energies on work, not for the IOC, but for the JOC."

Mu-Yen ChuOlympic gold medallist Mu-Yen Chu will not be allowed to take up his place on the IOC after allegations he handed out free lollipops to potential voters

Chu admitted he received a letter from the IOC two weeks ago on the eve of the Opening Ceremony of London 2012 claiming he had distributed sweets to athletes.

"At noon of August 10th, I explained to the IOC that I have never given any lollipops to anyone," he said.

"At the same time, I honestly did tell them I had used my iPad to explain to other athletes the IOC procedures of this voting, but I stopped doing it after I received the warning letter on July 26."

The Chinese Tapei Olympic Committee (CTOC) have called on the IOC to make the votes public for Murofushi and Chu and why the investigation was only carried out after the vote, which ran from July 16 to August 8.

A CTOC official scoffed at allegations that Chu had distributed lollipops.

"He would not be so naive," he said.

But, following hearings held this morning, the decision was taken by the IOC's Executive Board at a special meeting to disqualify the candidates for "repeated and clear breach of conduct".

The IOC tries to discourage expensive election campaigns.

According to the IOC rules, "no other document, poster, sign, banner or gift may be distributed and/or displayed inside or outside the Olympic Village, including the NOC (National Olympic Committee) residential areas". 

Frankie Fredericks_London_2012Frankie Fredericks, the head of the IOC Athletes' Commission, backed the decision to debar Japan's Koji Murofushi and Chinese Tapei's Mu-Yen Chu from the election

Frankie Fredericks, the Namibian chairman of the IOC Athletes' Commission, had little sympathy for Murofushi or Chu.

"The IOC was very clear regarding the rules of conduct," said Frankie Fredericks, the Namibian chairman of the IOC Athletes' Commission," he said.

"What happened is that we received complaints regarding the campaigning behaviour of two candidates.

"Because they had already recevied written warnings it was thought we should hold hearings.

"We're all sportsmen and if you make two false starts you are out," said Fredericks.

The four replace Commission members Fredericks, Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco, Rania Elwani of Eygpt and Jan Železný of the Czech Republic, who are all finishing their eight-year terms of office after being elected in Athens in 2004.

Fredericks, however, will stay on as an individual IOC member, although he will be replaced by Germany's Claudia Bokel as chair of the Athletes' Commission.

Presuming the election results are approved by the IOC Session tomorrow morning, Bartekova, Tomkins, Coventry and Estanguet will be officially introduced at the Closing Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics in the evening before a sell-out crowd of 80,000.

Barteková won a bronze medal in the skeet here and will be Slovakia's first IOC member since Vladimir Černušák had to retire in 2001 after surprisingly finishing top of the poll with 2,295 of the 6,924 votes cast.

At 27 she will be the youngest member of the IOC.

"For me, this success is as important as the shooting," she said.

"I was very eager to get onto the IOC and it was obvious that the only way is through the Athletes' Commission. 

"London, for me, will always be a magical city because here I made two of greatest dreams, "

Danka Bartekov_with_Frankie_Fredericks_and_Claudia_BokelSlovakia's Danka Barteková (in red skirt) the London 2012 skeet bronze medallist, celebrates becoming an IOC member with Frankie Fredericks (second right) and Claudia Bokel

Tomkins, 36, represented Australia at six Olympic Games, and won three gold medals and a bronze in an Olympic career spanning 20 years.

He was a member of the "Oarsome Foursome" gold medal crew in the coxless four in 1992 and 1996, and a gold medallist in 2004 as part of the coxless pair.

He was the Australian flag bearer at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008.

Tomkins earned 1,802 votes and becomes Australia's third IOC member, joining Kevan Gosper and John Coates.

"This is a tremendous honour and I am quite humbled to be honest," Tomkins said.

"My aim in running for this position was to be the voice of the athletes and to ensure the needs of the athletes are always at the forefront of the IOC's thinking.

"At the end of the day, the Olympic Games are about providing an environment for the world's greatest athletes to perform at their best every four years."

The 28-year-old Coventry has won seven Olympic medals during her career, including two gold.

She earned 1,797 votes.

Tony Estanguet_celebrates_winning_at_London_2012_July_31_2012France's Tony Estanguet celebrates winning his third Olympic gold medal in the C-1 class at London 2012

Estanguet, 34, cemented his place as one of the greatest canoeists in history at London 2012 when he won his third gold medal in the C-1, having previously triumphed at Sydney in 2000 and Athens 2004.

After getting 1,779 votes, he becomes the third French member of the IOC, taking his place alongside Jean-Claude Killy and Guy Drut. 

"Sport has given me so much and I continue to believe in the power of athletes to serve as positive role models in society," he said.

"I look forward to representing the interests of my peers and look forward to continuing my work to promote my sport canoeing and the many virtues of sport in general."

Contact the writer of this story at duncan.mackay@insidethegames.biz


Related stories
August 2012: Delay in announcement of new IOC athlete members caused by "procedural matter"
comments powered by Disqus