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Monday, July 14, 2008

Football corruption dossier handed over to prosecutors

Detectives investigating some of the most high-profile figures in football have sent the results of their inquiries into fraud allegations involving player transfers and agents' fees to prosecutors.

Police delivered their dossier of evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service last Thursday after a two-year investigation. Seven well-known figures are mentioned, including Portsmouth's FA Cup-winning manager, Harry Redknapp, and the most powerful woman in English football, Birmingham City director Karren Brady. The development threatens further to tarnish football's reputation amid criticism over player wages and agents' fees.

Last week detectives from the City of London economic crime unit, the country's top fraud squad, formally requested 'advice' from the CPS on whether there was sufficient proof to charge any of the individuals following an exhaustive inquiry.

Prosecution sources last night confirmed that they had been instructed to offer a 'charging decision' after receiving the completed file from the police inquiry, known as Operation Apprentice. A CPS statement said: 'We have received a file in relation to criminal allegations involving the transfer of football players and agent fees.'

Others named in the file include Leicester City chairman Milan Mandaric, Portsmouth chief executive Peter Storrie, Rangers and former Portsmouth midfielder Amdy Faye, Birmingham City co-owner David Sullivan, and agent Willie McKay. All seven strongly deny any wrongdoing.

Prosecutors will now ask counsel to decide whether police have sufficient evidence to charge any of those investigated.

When Redknapp won a judgment against City of London police last May, claiming that officers unlawfully raided his home as part of their investigation, the court heard that the inquiry was launched to probe 'suspected conspiracy to defraud, false accounting and money-laundering offences', although its focus may have shifted as the investigation evolved.

Corruption claims concerning football have been rife since former Luton Town manager Mike Newell denounced a 'bung' culture in football. His comments prompted the Premier League to launch an investigation headed by former top policeman Lord Stevens into all transfers between January 2002 and January 2004. Instead of naming names, however, the former Scotland Yard chief strongly criticised accounting procedures at several unnamed clubs.

Forensic accountancy firm Quest reported in June 2007, having failed to uncover any evidence of bungs, but passed to the FA 17 cases in which, it said, more evidence was required.
Original here

Chinese dominance not guaranteed

In a few weeks, American basketball player Dwight Howard, by way of Atlanta and the NBA's Orlando Magic, will step into the center circle at the Beijing Olympics and extend a hand toward China's Yao Ming, who was born in Shanghai and plays for the Houston Rockets, but hardly needs an introduction.

It just might be the most loaded handshake since Richard Nixon went to China in 1972 and met Mao.

And rather than usher in an era of cooperation between uneven rivals, the way the Nixon-Mao clasp did, this one will launch a 17-day competition between athletic superpowers for domination of the world's playing fields.

The United States departed Athens in 2004 with the lion's share of gold and the most medals overall — 35 and 103, compared to 32 and 63 for China and 27 and 92 for Russia. To turn the tables, locals heroes such as hurdler Liu Xiang and diver Guo Jingjing must repeat their breakthrough performances of four years ago.

Their countrymen must perform up to expectations in events such as table tennis, gymnastics, rowing and sailing, where tradition or intensive development programs have given them a leg up. And the Chinese must loosen the U.S. grip on the two sports with the most medals at stake, track and field and swimming, where Michael Phelps alone is aiming for eight gold medals.

But this quest for supremacy is sure to be a three-way race.

For the first time since the Soviet Union broke into 15 nations after the 1992 Games, there is a renewed commitment to sport from the Kremlin on down and the cash to back it up. Defending pole vault Olympic champion and world record-holder Yelena Isinbayeva will be in Beijing, ready to take down any challengers. So, too, are the Anastasias — Davydova and Ermakova — the synchronized swimming duet that proved inseparable at Athens.

A few new faces and a return to form by the most prominent member of the old Soviet bloc could make things tight at the top. Throw in the countries that have refined their "vertical" approach to the Olympics — Japan won eight golds and 10 overall in judo at Athens; Hungary won six total in canoe and kayak; Korea is a certainty to contend for gold in men's, women's and team archery events — and these could become the most competitive games ever.

Still, there will be no mistaking the Big Red Machine at these Olympics. China's ambitions extend beyond hosting the most successful Summer Games ever and providing a modern, orderly backdrop for a worldwide TV audience projected at four billion. It intends to claim the spot once reserved for the Soviets and more recently, the Americans, atop the medals table, too.

The planet's most populous nation has been told that goal is the next logical step in its transformation from third-world status to leader of the 21st century.

"This is not a simple sports event at all," Chinese Olympic Committee vice president Tu Mingde said nearly a year ago. "Its meaning surpasses the importance of sports itself."

To make sure the games run smoothly, the host country will deploy 550,000 volunteers, one for every expected foreign visitor. But it still won't have a suitable chaperone in the pool for the 23-year-old Phelps, who will compete in eight events and whose toughest competition could be turn out to be Mark Spitz and the record seven golds he took home from the Munich Olympics three dozen years ago.

"I would expect that in a month from now," Spitz said of Phelps, "you're going to see him win by margins and set times that have never been done before."

The same could be true of 41-year-old sprint specialist Dara Torres, who became the first U.S. swimmer to make five Olympic squads, or her more versatile teammates, Natalie Coughlin and Katie Hoff. Making the Americans tougher still will be the high-tech swimsuits credited with helping their occupants break nearly four dozen world records in the past five months.

The Chinese figure to get more help from the rest of the world boxing in the Americans on the track, but even that could cut both ways. Promising U.S. sprinter Tyson Gay, who posted a wind-aided and unofficial record of 9.68 in the 100 meters at the U.S. trials, could find himself sandwiched between Jamaicans Asafa Powell and Usain Bolt, who already have swapped the title of "world's fastest human" once.

"Can a man run 9.6?" Powell repeated a reporter's question during an interview last month. "You should ask if Asafa can run 9.6."

Without waiting for an answer, he added a moment later, "Definitely."

But the Chinese will be paying more attention to Cuban 110-meter hurdler Dayron Robles. He figures to be the final obstacle in hometown hero Liu's efforts to match what Australian runner Cathy Freeman did at the 2000 Sydney Games, when she lit the Olympic cauldron and then delivered her country's only track gold.

"Just to be in the Olympic final will be OK for me," Liu said recently, trying to tamp down expectations. "After that anything can happen in one race — gold, silver, bronze. Anything is possible.'

Liu might be right.

The Beijing Games also could showcase WNBA star Becky Hammon — who hails from Rapid City, S.D. and played college ball at Colorado State before her breakout season with the San Antonio Silver Stars — in a Russian national team jersey. Left out of the original 21-player pool for the U.S. women's team, she played for a Moscow team during the offseason and was fast-tracked for Russian citizenship.

Branded as a traitor by some back in the States, Hammon stands to collect up to $200,000 if she leads her adopted country to a gold medal.

"This was never about me getting back at anybody," she said. "This is just about taking advantage of a great opportunity."

The coach of the U.S. women's volleyball team understands. Back home in Beijing, "Jenny" Lang Ping is still known as the "Iron Hammer" and revered for leading the Chinese women past the United States to win the gold medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

She has been compared to Michael Jordan and even honored with her own postage stamp. But Lang knows what to expect from even her most devoted fans if her old team runs up against her new one again.

"When we play against China," she recalled, "they always cheer for China."

There are a few athletes, though, whose stories are so compelling that they're worth cheering for no matter your nationality.

Decathlete Roman Sebrle of the Czech Republic might be the best all-around athlete at the games and holds the world record in his event. But while training in South Africa some 18 months ago, oblivious to a handful of javelin throwers practicing nearby, Sebrle crossed a field and one of lances struck him. A few inches either way, and the javelin would have punctured his lung or throat instead of lodging in his shoulder.

"Just one centimeter higher and it would have hit bone, muscle and tendon," Sebrle recalled, "and that would have been the end of my sporting career."

Natalie Du Toit wasn't so fortunate. The 24-year-old South African lost her left leg in a motorcycle accident seven years ago and will swim her sport's most grueling race — the 10-kilometer open water event — without a prosthetic limb.

"Everything happens for a reason," she said, "and you have to use it for your advantage."

The Chinese, too, left few opportunities on the sideline in their quest for Olympic glory. Despite being the longest of long shots in the baseball tournament, they took their automatic berth seriously. Former major league manager Jim Lefebvre and pitching coach Bruce Hurst have been on loan from MLB to help develop China's team since 2003, but progress has been slow and patience is wearing thin.

Center fielder Sun Lingfang, who plays for the national team and the Beijing Tigers in the six-team China Baseball League, said all that would change if the baseball program took its cues from China's economy.

"I wish," Sun said, "it would develop that fast."

Orignal here