Sunday, May 10, 2009

Olympic official, hockey head under scandal suspicion

The International Olympic Committee is no stranger to scandal. This one could harm VANOC.

Rene Fasel is the most powerful winter sports executive in the world. Not only is he president of the International Ice Hockey Federation and president of the Association of International Olympic Winter Sports Federations, but Fasel is the chairman of the coordination commission that monitors, advises and approves planning and organization of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.

Zurich, Switzerland newspaper SonntagsZeitung reported May 10 that a company run by a childhood friend of Rene Fasel received more than $1 million from 2004 to 2008 from Infront Sports and Media, the International Ice Hockey Federation’s broadcast and marketing agency. Infront president Philippe Blatter is the nephew of FIFA president and IOC member Sepp Blatter.

An English translation of the German-language newspaper said Fasel’s friend since kindergarten, identified only as Y.S., is principal of a company called Proc AG which received payments on “business contracts, especially to national and international winter sport federations.”

IIHF president Fasel, an IOC member since 1995, is a 59-year-old Swiss dentist and former hockey referee. He denies any involvement in the alleged kickback scheme.

Fasel told reporters at the world hockey championship in Bern, Switzerland that he “helped a longtime friend with offering his services to Infront,” but denied receiving any commission or bonus.

A spokesman for the IOC said it is aware of the report, but deferred comment to the IIHF. IIHF is investigating the matter and may have more to say on Monday morning.

VANOC CEO John Furlong issued this prepared statement on May 10: "Rene Fasel has been a long time leader in the world of sport and has been a strong supporter and advisor to me and to our whole organizing committee as we prepare for the 2010 Winter Games. We understand that he supports a decision by the IIHF to investigate recent reports involving him and out of respect for that investigation will refrain from further comment."

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