2018 Games Clouded by Investigation of Corruption   

Jenna Florio – The Winter Olympics have kicked off in PyeongChang, South Korea. With freezing temperatures, one would think that the perfect atmosphere to compete surrounded the Olympians. However, the political atmosphere has created contention. It appeared that bringing ninety-two countries’ finest athletes to PyeongChang circumvented scandal, but a couple weeks before the opening ceremony the 2018 Games became clouded by yet another story alleging corruption.[1] United States federal prosecutors issued grand jury subpoenas to the International Olympic Committee, the U.S. Olympic Committee and soccer’s governing body, FIFA.[2] This comes during an already controversial time for the IOC and USOC, because in the backdrop are remaining allegations of bribery related to the 2016 Rio Olympics, and the aftermath of the sexual abuse conviction of Larry Nassar, former U.S. gymnastics team doctor.[3]

The Justice Department is focusing on “possible racketeering, money laundering and fraud charges related to two track and field world championship events and the business executives who have consulted on bids for various other elite competitions, according to one of the subpoenas.”[4] The Eastern District of New York is leading the investigation. This is the same Brooklyn office of prosecutors who have investigated FIFA, which resulted in multiple bribery and corruption charges.[5] Additionally, this office spent years investigating systematic doping in Russia.[6]

The subpoenas have requested text messages, emails, notes, and contracts, and have solicited testimony and financial records from the last five years.[7] Investigators are focused on two major sporting events that the United States has won bids on since then: the 2021 track and field world championships, in Eugene, Ore., and the 2028 Summer Olympics, in Los Angeles.[8] The subpoenas also hone in on the IAAF, the track and field’s governing body,[9] This investigation doesn’t come out of the blue, but is merely an expansion of pre-existing conflict.[10] In summer 2017, the FBI and IRS investigated the bid by Eugene and USA Track and Field for the world championships.[11] These world championships occur every two years, and Eugene had los the bid to Quatar for the 2019 world championships.[12] The announcement of the winning bid came as a surprise during the IAAF council meeting in Beijing because there was no formal bidding process.[13] At the time, Lamine Diack was IAAF president.[14] Since, he has been detained in France “due to allegations of accepting bribes and covering up doping violations by Russian athletes.”[15]

The United States is not alone in this pursuit. The choices of Eugene and Doha have caused France’s national financial prosecutor’s office to investigate the track and field governing body as well.[16] Brazilian authorities have arrested Carlos Arthur Nuzman, the head of Brazil’s Olympic committee, because of connections to Mr. Diack and his son.[17] They were suspicious that he was helped by bribery to obtain votes for Rio de Janiero’s successful bid for the 2016 Summer Games from members of the IOC.[18] The American investigation most likely overlaps with the investigation abroad.[19] However, American’s are not letting FIFA off the hook here.[20] They are casting a wider net to encapsulate them in these allegations, as FIFA plans to schedule the 2022 World Cup in Quatar.[21]

Bribery has colored international bidding for quite sometime. However, governing bodies around the globe seem to have had enough.[22] The investigations are very vague, but perhaps purposely so, in order to obtain as much information as possible.[23] Just when it seemed like South Korea skirted controversy, international scandal clouded the 2018 Games.

[1] Alex Baker, Five Problems facing the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, Yahoo Sports, (Feb 6, 2018). https://sports.yahoo.com/five-problems-facing-winter-olympics-pyeongchang-010900062.html.

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Rebecca R. Ruiz, Just Dept. Escalates Inquiry on Global Sports Corruption, The New York Times, (Jan 31, 2018). https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/31/sports/fifa-ioc-usoc-iaaf.html.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] , Charlotte Carroll and Chris Chavez, Report: DOJ Issues Subpeonas in Investigation Into International Sports Corruption, Sports Illustrated, (Jan 31, 2018). https://www.si.com/olympics/2018/01/31/justice-department-information-fifa-ioc-usoc.

[10] See id.

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] Id.

[16] Carroll, supra note 9

[17] Id.

[18] Id.

[19] Id.

[20] Id.

[21] Id.

[22] Kevin Skiver, Justice Department, in Sweeping Corruption Probe of Fifa, USOC, Issues Subpoenas, CBSSports, (Jan 31, 2018). https://www.cbssports.com/olympics/news/justice-department-in-sweeping-corruption-probe-of-fifa-usoc-issues-subpoenas/.

[23] Id.

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