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IOC Wants New Iraq Committee

Ethics commission urges move after investigating accusations that athletes were tortured by the group led by Saddam Hussein's oldest son, Uday.

May 08, 2003|Alan Abrahamson | Times Staff Writer

The Iraqi Olympic Committee headed by Uday Hussein, the eldest son of Saddam Hussein, is out of the Olympic movement and will be replaced by a newly chartered group, the president of the International Olympic Committee said Wednesday.

The IOC's ethics commission recommended the ouster after investigating allegations -- first made public in December by a London-based human rights group -- that athletes were being tortured by the Iraqi Olympic Committee, led by Uday Hussein.

The Iraqi Olympic Committee's headquarters in Baghdad were bombed in the first few days of the U.S.-led war in Iraq. No confirmed sightings of Uday Hussein have been made since.

The IOC's executive board, meeting next week in Madrid, must approve the ouster -- a formality according to IOC President Jacques Rogge.

The human rights group Indict alleged in December that Iraqi athletes were being brutalized. In many reports since, athletes have said that beatings and jailings went on for years. Rogge said the IOC had not received complaints before December.

Still unclear is why and how the matter remained so secret for so long. Charles Forrest, chief executive of Indict, said many Iraqi athletes were unwilling to go on the record with allegations. Rumors of torture in Iraq swirled for years, he said, and the IOC should long ago have taken the initiative to investigate.

"They have to accept a certain amount of responsibility," Forrest said.

Rogge said the IOC was aware only that the federation that oversees soccer in Asia, a group tied to the worldwide soccer body FIFA, had been asked to investigate reports of athlete abuses in Iraq.

Asked to inquire into allegations that members of the Iraqi national team were tortured after losing a match, the Asian soccer group "made an inquiry" in 1997 and concluded there was "no evidence of wrongdoing," Rogge said. Reiterating the position of soccer officials, Rogge added that the Asian soccer federation may not have "had the means" to conduct a thorough investigation.

The IOC ethics commission report was not made public Wednesday, but Rogge said exiled Iraqi athletes were interviewed and found "absolutely credible."

The commission sought a response from the Iraqi Olympic Committee but got none, Rogge said.

In recommending the creation of a new committee, the ethics commission added a proviso barring the involvement of anyone with complicity in abuse against athletes carried out during the Hussein regime.

Iraqi athletes are expected to compete at the 2004 Summer Games in Athens, though many formalities remain to be completed.

Times staff writer Janet Stobart in London contributed to this report.

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