IAAF senior vice-president Sergey Bubka wired tens of thousands of dollars to a top Olympic official just before a key IOC meeting on who should host the 2016 Olympics, according to French reports.
Bubka, a six-time pole vault world champion and honorary IOC member, denied wrongdoing after revelations that he wired $45,000 to scandal-struck Russian Valentin Balakhnichev, the former head of the Russian athletics federation and IAAF treasurer. Balakhnichev was suspended for life from the IAAF in January last year on charges he covered up doping in Russia.
Le Monde newspaper, which broke the story and cited documents it says prove the transfer, questioned the timing of the "opaque" wire; it took place on the 18 June 2009, when IOC members were gathered in Lausanne, Switzerland for crunch briefings on who should host the 2016 Olympics. Rio de Janeiro was eventually picked.
Bubka, who is Ukrainian, reportedly issued the wire to New Mills Investments, an offshore company domiciled on the West Indian island tax haven of Nevis and whose trustee was Balakhnichev.
According to Le Monde, an almost identical sum was transferred the previous day from Mills Investments to Pamodzi Sports, a company belonging to Papa Massata Diack, the son of former IAAF president Lamine Diack who at the time was an IOC voting member. The elder Diack has been held in Paris since 2015 as part of a corruption case and an international arrest warrant has been issued for his son.
Last week, France's financial prosecutor said there were indications that payments were made in return for the votes of IAAF and IOC members over the designation of host cities for the Olympics and other major sporting events. From Senegal, Massata Diack dismissed the accusation as "the biggest lie in the history of world sport".
He declined to comment, while Bubka's lawyer said his client "had no financial relations with Mr Diack".
Speaking to Le Monde, Bubka confirmed he had transferred money to Balakhnichev, but denied any "wrongdoing".
"As I recall, we had envisaged creating an event in Moscow and several cities around the world as part of (Balakhnichev's) Pole Vault Stars (contest) with a series of competitions that would end in Donetsk," he told the newspaper.
Pole Vault stars was an annual contest launched in 1990 in Ukraine.
His lawyer said the funds were payment for Balakhnichev's "consulting services" to roll out the contest internationally. The project, however, was never discussed publicly and pole vault specialists told Le Monde they had never heard of the plan.
Bubka denied any link between the timing of the transfer and the IOC meeting in Lausanne, saying "there was no link with candidate cities" for the 2016 Olympics. Balakhnichev dismissed any link with the Olympic campaign as "fake news".
Bubka, 53, an influential figure in the IOC, lost the battle for IAAF president to Sebastian Coe in 2015. Lord Coe, who won 115 votes to Bubka’s 92 at the election in Beijing, pledged to banish any conflict of interest between athletics’ governing body and the fight against doping.
The Ukrainian has remained discreet over ongoing corruption inquiries into the IAAF and IOC, last week telling a Germany reporter in Lima: "The IOC is a fantastic institution. If people have had personal problems, these should be treated individually."
In the latest in a string of developments, earlier this month, police raided the home of Brazilian Olympic Committee President Carlos Nuzman and emerged with suitcases, documents and a computer. Detention warrants were issued for Nuzman and an associate, businessman Arthur Cesar de Menezes Soares Filho. In total, 11 detention warrants were issued in Brazil and France in what police dubbed “Operation Unfair Play.”
Investigators said Nuzman, an honorary member of the IOC, was a central player in buying votes for Rio’s Olympic bid in 2009.
A lawyer for Nuzman denied any wrongdoing. All the other accused denied the charges.