The International Cycling Union (UCI) has been put under the spotlight by a report which claims the world cycling body was paid to help get track cycling’s keirin event on the Olympic programme in 1996.
The BBC reported on its website 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 a total of US$3 million was “paid by organisers of a Japanese cycling event to the UCI – the world cycling body”.
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 programme, 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 realised that they weren’t doing it for nothing.
“They wanted something in return and everybody knew what they got in return,” he said.
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 centres 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,” he added.
Former UCI chief Hein Verbruggen, who is 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 in which racers are motorpaced by a motor-bike 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 pound betting industry.