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Summer sports suspend membership in protest against SportAccord

Published:Wednesday | April 22, 2015 | 12:00 AM

SOCHI, Russia (AP):

Summer Olympic sports suspended their membership in the umbrella body for international federations yesterday after its leader launched a blistering attack on the International Olympics Committee (IOC).

The council of the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF) said it decided unanimously to break off ties with SportAccord pending a review and clarification of its role and governance.

The move came a day after SportAccord head Marius Vizer blasted the IOC and its president, Thomas Bach, in a speech at the opening of the conference in Sochi.

With Bach looking on, Vizer accused the IOC of lacking transparency, ignoring the federations and blocking his plans for new multi-sport competitions.

The summer sports association said it considers Vizer's position "not compatible with the role and mission of ASOIF as a major stakeholder of the Olympic movement".

The issue will be discussed at the ASOIF general assembly in Sochi today.

ASOIF represents the 28 sports on the programme of the Summer Olympics. Among its members is the judo federation, of which Vizer is also the president.

SportAccord represents more than 100 Olympic and non-Olympic federations. Vizer, who is demanding more power for his organisation, was re-elected on Monday to a four-year term as SportAccord president.

IAAF President Lamine Diack said yesterday that Vizer resembled "a chief or dictator coming from nowhere" and telling major sports federations what to do.

The ASOIF council said it respects "any decision taken individually by its member international federations" regarding their relationships with SportAccord.

Track and field's governing body, the IAAF, has formally withdrawn from SportAccord, as well as the international shooting federation.

ASOIF president Francesco Ricci Bitti said two more federations, World Archery and the International Canoe Federation, had suspended their involvement with SportAccord, but not withdrawn completely.

Pull outs possible

UCI President Brian Cookson would not rule out the possibility of the cycling federation pulling out.

Ricci Bitti, who also heads the International Tennis Federation (ITF), said ASOIF's withdrawal was not a call for all member federations to pull out of SportAccord and that the ITF would remain.

"I wanted to leave the door open," he said. "I don't encourage people to pull out because that's too much, to pull out. Federations can do what they want and we respect their decision."

Ricci Bitti said SportAccord should return to its roots as a means for federations to talk, to host specialised events such as the Mind Games and provide services for smaller federations. However, bigger projects which intrude on federation or IOC territory should not be considered, he said.

Vizer has been at odds with the IOC for several years, ever since he first took over SportAccord and sought to establish a "United World Championships" every four years for all the sports. The plan has not materialised.

The IOC snubbed Vizer by deciding not to hold an executive board meeting during the SportAccord convention in Sochi. The board has met during all the previous annual conferences going back to 2003.

Major sports do not necessarily need SportAccord to represent them because "we are already organised" in other associations that do not have a strong presidential figure playing politics, Diack said.

Another sticking point was Vizer's proposal for federations to unite their world championships under the SportAccord umbrella, a clear challenge to the Olympics. Diack said the move would usurp power from the individual federations.

"The gentleman (Vizer) was complaining, was saying he was going to organise the world championships of all the sports," Diack said. "So I go: 'What, I am going to disappear?'"

Along with the IAAF, at least 14 federation presidents, including FIFA's Sepp Blatter, signed letters of protest at Vizer's comments.