An International Olympic Committee official who will soon lead an evaluation team to Los Angeles to assess the city's bid for the 2024 Summer Games has been linked to a wide-ranging corruption investigation.
Frankie Fredericks, who is also a former top sprinter, has come under scrutiny as part of an ongoing French probe into whether large sums have been paid to buy the votes that determined the hosts of the 2016 and 2020 Olympics.
The IOC quickly responded to a report in the French newspaper Le Monde that Fredericks received almost $300,000 at the same time he and his colleagues selected the 2016 host, choosing Rio de Janeiro over Chicago and other candidates.
"The IOC has taken note of the serious allegations," spokesman Mark Adams said in a statement, adding that the committee's ethics commission is pursuing the matter.
Fredericks said he received the payment in return for sports marketing work in his native Namibia.
"He informed the IOC and explained the situation and emphasized his innocence immediately upon being contacted by the journalist," Adams stated. "The IOC trusts that Mr. Fredericks will bring all the elements to prove his innocence against these allegations made by Le Monde."
As chairman of the IOC's evaluation commission for the 2024 Games, Fredericks and his team are scheduled to visit L.A. and the other remaining candidate, Paris, this spring.
Because IOC members are not allowed to make official visits to bid cities, the evaluation report could have significant influence on next September's vote.
Friday's developments added another layer of complexity to a multifaceted French investigation that originally focused on the sport of track and field.
In particular, authorities were interested in the business dealings of Lamine Diack, an IOC member and then-president of the international track federation. His son, sports businessman Papa Massata Diack, was also a target.
The probe soon widened into suspicions that money was being paid to influence IOC voters.
Authorities have reportedly discovered large amounts transferred from Brazil and Japan — Tokyo won the vote for the 2020 Games — to a company and bank account linked to the Diacks.
The elder Diack has been banished from sport and is in custody facing charges of corruption and money laundering. The son is wanted by Interpol.