By Duncan Mackay


November 5 - Juan Antonio Samaranch (pictured) worked as a secret agent for the KGB, who helped him win his election to become the President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), it has been alleged in a new book published in Russia.


The claim is made in book, "The KGB playing chess", by Vladimir Popov, formerly a top official in the Soviet Union secret police, extracts of which have been published in today's German and Norwegian media.


Popov, a KGB lieutenant colonel who now lives in Canada, alleges that they helped Samaranch to gain power at the head of the IOC in return for him working as "sports general"


It followed Samaranch allegedly being caught smuggling antiques, jewelry and paintings out of the Soviet Union while he was Spanish Ambassador in Moscow, a post he held from 1977 until 1980.


Although he had international immunity he chose to cooperate with the KGB rather than be involved in an international scandal, it is alleged by Popov.


At the time he was allegedly recruited as an agent for the KGB, Samaranch was the vice-president of the IOC.


He had previously served as Spanish Sports Minister under General Franco and has had to defend giving the fascist salute.


Popov claimed that the KGB ensured that IOC members from the Soviet-controlled Eastern Bloc voted for Samaranch and that they worked closely with Vitaly Smirnov, an IOC member since 1971 and was vice-president between 1978 and 1982.


Smirnov, who was  Minister of Sport of the Russian Federation from 1981 until 1990, remains a member of the IOC and has served two subsequent two spells as vice-president, from 1990 to 1994 and from 2001 to 2005.


Samaranch (pictured with Smirnov) was elected as successor to Ireland's Lord Killanin at the IOC Session in Moscow in July 1980 just days before his 60th birthday when he polled 44 votes to beat Switzerland's Marc Holder, who got 21, Canada's James Worrall, seven, and West Germany's Willi Daume, five.


New Zealander Lance Cross withdrew from the Presidential election at the last minute.


The sensational allegations form the centre-piece of a book which deals with how the KGB used to recruit agents from the sports world.


Popov has written the book in collaboration with the Russian-American historian Yuri Felshtinskij, and two great masters of chess - Viktor Korchnoi and Boris Gulko.


The book claims that the KGB had established a spy nest in the IOC, and it ran a number of covert operations against some of the world's most famous athletes.


One of the operations revealed is that the KGB planned to kill Korchnoi, who had defected after a tournament in Amsterdam in 1976, with poison because the Soviet Government feared that the then world champion Anatoly Karpov, who was a secret agent under the cover name "Raul".


Samaranch held the post of IOC President until 2001 when he was succeeded by Belgium's Jacques Rogge.


It was alleged in another book last month, "Winds and Clouds of the World of Sports" by former Chinese Sports Minister Yuan Weimin, that Rogge was elected after the Government in Beijing agreed to support his bid in return for helping the Chinese capital be awarded the 2008 Olympics.


Samaranch , who was appointed as Honorary Life President of the IOC by Rogge, was not available for comment.


Mark Adams, a spokesman for the IOC, claimed the story was "pure speculation".


Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]



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