The European Olympic Committees meeting yesterday unanimously backed the national Olympic committee officials named and shamed in the London 2012 ticket scandal, in the face of an International Olympic Committee (IOC) Ethics Commission recommendation to take sanctions against them.
Yesterday’s development has provided a ray of hope for embattled Malta Olympic Committee Chairman Judge Lino Farrugia Sacco and secretary general Joe Cassar.
The Maltese officials were both secretly filmed by the Sunday Times of London journalists posing as agents looking to purchase tickets for the 2014 Winter Games allocated to Malta last June, some six weeks before the London Olympic Games.
The EOC, however, yesterday expressed reservations “about the process of entrapment through which evidence was obtained and reservations about the absence of legal representation”.
The IOC’s report said that six NOC officials “tarnished the reputation of the Olympic Movement” when they were caught offering to sell NOC tickets to purported ticket agents in the undercover operation.
EOC secretary general Raffaele Pagnozzi said in a resolution after the meeting, “The members of the Executive Committee expressed their unanimous support for those implicated in the December 2012 Report of the IOC Ethics Commission.”
The IOC’s Ethics Commission had recommended in their report that action be taken against those named, which also included officials from Greece, Lithuania, and Serbia, following a report by The Sunday Times (London) last June which claimed that NOCs and Authorised Ticket Resellers had broken rules over the sale of tickets for this year’s Olympics.
But with its resolution yesterday, the EOC, with its criticism of the IOC report, has placed itself on a direct collision course with the IOC.
The EOC’s greatest concern over the report damning the officials was that the accused were not represented before the IOC Ethics Commission and were instead confined to written submissions.
They also expressed concerns that the NOCs were told by the IOC to take action without having access to the evidence provided by The Sunday Times of London.
“In particular they noted that the evidence on which the IOC Ethics Commission formulated its proposals was never made available in a timely manner to those implicated nor made available to the relevant National Olympic Committees,” the resolution said.
“Given the seriousness of the allegations where reputational damage to senior members of the Olympic Family is at stake, the Committee expressed reservations about the lack of opportunity for those concerned to appear before the full membership of the IOC Ethics Commission, reservations about the process of entrapment through which evidence was obtained and reservations about the absence of legal representation.”
EOC President Patrick Hickey was asked to start talks with IOC President Jacques Rogge, and President of the Association of National Olympic Committees Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah over their reservations on the IOC’s Ethics Commission report.
The Olympic Charter, however, does not allow the IOC to take direct action against the individuals named in the Ethics Commission but they would have the right to deny the individuals named in the report accreditation to future IOC events, including the Olympic Games.
On Wednesday, the IOC ordered disciplinary action against top Olympic officials from four countries after the newspaper’s sting alleged they offered to supply London Games tickets to the black market.
Greek Olympic President Spyros Capralos breached the IOC’s code of conduct and, due to his privileged position, caused “even greater damage to the Olympic Movement,” the Olympic body said.
The IOC ethics commission report ruled that the six officials “helped tarnish the reputation” of the Olympics when they spoke to undercover reporters from The Sunday Times of London. The articles were published in June, six weeks before the London games opened.
Olympic leaders “must behave impeccably,” the ethics panel stated in its judgment.
“(The panel) believes that, if this is not the case, the individuals concerned must draw the necessary consequences,” the ruling said.
IOC spokesman Mark Adams said the four national Olympic committees must take “appropriate measures” against their officials or face further action, such as withdrawing accreditation for Olympic meetings and events. IOC ethics rules allow it to directly sanction National Olympic Committees but not individuals.
The IOC named Malta Olympic President Lino Farrugia Sacco, and secretary general Joe Cassar, plus the secretary generals from Lithuania, Vytuatas Zubernis, and Serbia, Djordje Visacki, for breaking rules.
Mr Cassar in particular had helped the journalists show that “those who work with (the sports world) are prepared to violate the rules,” the IOC said on Wednesday.
On Friday, Malta’s Nationalist Party called for the immediate resignation of Judge Farrugia Sacco from his position as a judge, saying that it would be the “honourable thing to do”. Failing that, the PN threatened that the government and Parliament should take action.