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IOC investigating dubious payments related to Rio Games

The International Olympics Committee has begun investigating allegations of payments made before Rio was awarded the right to host the 2016 Olympics. Former sprinter Frankie Fredericks is also under investigation.

The IOC announced in a statement on Friday that an ethics commission had started looking into a payment involving Fredericks, an IOC member and council member of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

French newspaper Le Monde reported on Friday that French prosecutors were investigating a payment of $299,300 to Yemi Limited, an offshore company linked to Fredericks, on the day in 2009 Rio de Janeiro was awarded the right to host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. The report suggested the payment came from Papa Massata Diack, former marketing director of the IAAF and son of disgraced former IAAF president Lamine Diack, who allegedly received $2 million in two installments from a holding company belonging to Brazilian businessman Arthur Cesar Menezes Soares Filho three days before the election of the host city.

"The IOC remains fully committed to clarifying this situation, working in cooperation with the [French] prosecutor," the organization said in a statement. It also pointed out that the former Namibian sprinter had turned himself over to the IOC ethics commission following the Le Monde report, adding that the commission "is now following up on all the allegations in order to fully clarify this matter."

"As far as Mr. Fredericks is concerned, he informed the IOC and explained the situation and emphasized his innocence immediately upon being contacted by the journalist," the statement continued. "The IOC trusts that Mr. Fredericks will bring all the elements to prove his innocence against these allegations made by Le Monde."

Fredericks represented Namibia at the Barcelona Games in 1992 and the Atlanta Games in 1996, winning silver in the 100m and the 200m in at both Olympics. An IOC member since 2004, he was on the IOC Executive Board when the 2009 vote took place.  

Rio beat out bids from Madrid, Tokyo and Chicago to earn the hosting rights for the 2016 Games. It was the first city in South America to host the Games. Mario Andrada, a spokesman for the Rio organizing committee, denied any link to alleged bribery.

"We ran a clean election, and all the documents, everything we had on the campaign are open to the public and to the French investigators," Andrada said. He adding that French investigators had not contacted the committee.

dv/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters)