Keirin riders racing for the line

Keirin riders racing for the line

Well so it has been alleged today from the BBC. The news broadcaster claims it has received documents that suggest the world cycling body was paid £1.5m by organisers of a Japanese cycling event to help get track cycling’s keirin event on the Olympic program in 1996.

The payments were allegedly made in the 1990s. The event was supported for inclusion into the Games by the UCI and admitted in 1996.

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 organisation’s press office said in a statement today. “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.

The payments total some $3m (£1.5m) – that is about a fifth of the UCI’s annual budget – paid as reimbursements for things like the routine travel expenses of top UCI officials including Hein Verbruggen, the man who is now in charge of the organising committee for the Beijing Olympic Games.  In one six-month period in 1999, the Keirin Association paid for no fewer than five separate return flights on UCI business taken by Verbruggen to the Netherlands, his home country.

A source who was within the UCI at the time told the BBC that the payments were explicitly a payback for getting the keirin into the Games.

After being confronted with the revelations, Verbruggen himself who denied that anything improper had taken place. “It’s been done in total transparency”, he said. “This was done for the development of track cycling around the world.”

However he did not directly explain how come routine air fares and other UCI expenses were being covered by the Japanese.

This is a sorry state of affairs for the UCI. These kinds of allegations will not do its image any justice as it fights to keep control of cycling on a global level. First the TdF organiser, Amaury Sport Organization (ASO), dismisses the authority of the UCI.  Then 17 of 18 teams pull out of the ProTour series, sanctioned by the UCI. And now these damning allegations.

Come, come UCI! It’s time to get your house in order!

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