August 12 - A human kangaroo today joined lollipops at the heart of an Olympic electoral dispute, as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) delayed confirmation of the four declared winners as new IOC members.
The imbroglio concerns the latest election for the IOC Athletes' Commission, whose members also serve eight-year terms as IOC members, participating in key decisions such as the choice of future Olympic Games host-cities.
Four current or recently-retired athletes from a wide field of 21 candidates were elected over recent days by the 10,852 athletes participating at London 2012.
However, two of the elected candidates – Koji Murofushi of Japan and Mu-Yen Chu of Chinese Taipei – were subsequently disqualified for allegedly breaching the strict rules governing campaigning ahead of the vote.
Murofushi, a gold medal-winning hammer thrower, is understood originally to have topped the poll, ahead of Slovakian shooter Danka Bartekova, who received 2,295 votes.
Murofushi's disqualification is a particularly severe blow to the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC), as the athlete – who has a commanding presence and speaks excellent English – was expected to play a key role in Tokyo's 2020 Summer Olympic bid.
The affair took on a surrealistic dimension lat night, when it emerged that Chu had been accused of handing out lollipops to promote his candidacy.
Chinese Taipei strongly denies this allegation.
"He never handed out any lollipop in any shape, any colour or any nature," an official told insidethegames.
Now the country, known outside Olympicland as Taiwan, has retaliated by filing a complaint and attaching a photograph that allegedly shows James Tomkins (pictured top), the multi-gold medal-winning Australian rower, who was elected in second place in the poll with 1,802 votes, walking next to an individual in a kangaroo suit.
Chinese Taipei claims this is proof that Tomkins violated the rules.
Attention is also starting to focus on the source of the initial complaints against Chu and Murofushi, with one unconfirmed suggestion pointing the finger at France.
French canoeist Tony Estanguet was elected to the commission in fourth place with 1,779 votes, but would not have made it had the two Asian candidates not been disqualified.
The other athlete elected was Kirsty Coventry, the Zimbabwean swimmer.
With allegations and counter-allegations now swirling, the IOC is expected to take a few weeks to investigate the evidence it has received of alleged rule breaches.
IOC President Jacques Rogge indicated at his closing London 2012 media conference that a postal vote of IOC members could then be taken to confirm the winners of the election as IOC members.
The IOC did this morning approve the result of the poll declaring Bartekova, Tomkins, Coventry and Estanguet as the winners.
Rogge told journalists at the Olympic Park media centre that there was "no doubt the rules were infringed."
He added that, while the IOC felt that the rules governing athletes' elections were adequate, the way in which those rules were enforced might need to be looked at.
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