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BBC alleges UCI took bribes to support keirin’s Olympic bid

The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) has been put under the spotlight by a report that claims the world cycling body was paid to help get track cycling's keirin event on the Olympic program in 1996. The BBC reported on its Web site that it possesses documents which "reveal a series of substantial payments to the UCI, which began just two months after the keirin was accepted into the Olympics in December 1996.” The report, which was denied by a top Japanese official, claims that $3 million was "paid by organizers of a Japanese cycling event to the UCI — the world cycling body.”

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By Agence France Presse

Did someone pay for them to be there?

Did someone pay for them to be there?

Photo: Graham Watson

The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) has been put under the spotlight by a report that claims the world cycling body was paid to help get track cycling’s keirin event on the Olympic program in 1996.

The BBC reported on its Web site that it possesses documents which “reveal a series of substantial payments to the UCI, which began just two months after the keirin was accepted into the Olympics in December 1996.”

The report, which was denied by a top Japanese official, claims that $3 million was “paid by organizers of a Japanese cycling event to the UCI — the world cycling body.”

The UCI says it has found no evidence of the bribery.

“UCI looked into this matter when questions were first raised by the BBC in early June,” the organization’s press office said in a statement released Monday. “A thorough examination of our records and interviews with those involved has turned up no evidence that this was anything other than a straightforward, completely proper arrangement to promote track cycling.”

However a former top official with the UCI, Denmark’s Henrik Elmgreen, said it was widely known that the keirin, which in 1992 was in danger of being dropped from the UCI’s world championship program, was pushed through thanks to money.

“We must admit that when they came (into the Olympics) it was because the Japanese were very influential in the UCI and they offered a lot of money in order to promote this discipline,” he is reported as saying on the BBC. “You can to a certain extent say they bought their way in but on the other hand it is a spectacular discipline.

“Everybody knew the Japanese were supporting the (UCI) World Cup series and were supporting everything and I think everybody realized that they weren’t doing it for nothing,” Elmgreen added. “They wanted something in return and everybody knew what they got in return.”

When asked to substantiate the claims by the BBC, a top Japanese cycling official identified only as Mr. Koramasu categorically denied any deal having ever taken place.

“No transfer of money took place,” he said. “What we did is that we supported establishing the cycling training centers in Japan and also we paid the set amount that all the national federations pay for membership — sort of a membership fee — I have to say I do not know about it at all.

“I have been in this position up until 1998, however I’ve never heard of any direct payment of money or cash.”

Former UCI chief Hein Verbruggen, now a top International Olympic Committee (IOC) official, also denied any wrongdoing.

“It’s been done in total transparency,” he said. “This was done for the development of track cycling around the world.”

The keirin is one of track cycling’s sprint events. Racers are paced by a motorbike before engaging in a frantic dash for the finish line. The event is big money business in Japan, where it forms an integral part of a multi-million-dollar betting industry.

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