Italy promises Olympic committee autonomy after IOC warning

ROME (AP) — Italy’s sports minister has promised “autonomy” for the country’s Olympic committee operations, two months after IOC president Thomas Bach dangled the threat of probation for the Tokyo Games due to alleged government interference.

Vincenzo Spadafora, the minister, said he wrote in a letter to the International Olympic Committee on Tuesday that a forthcoming government reform “guarantees CONI proper functional and organizational autonomy, as dictated by the Olympic Charter.”

Bach had taken issue with the Italian government’s creation of a new organization, ‘Sport e Salute,’ that was created at the start of last year to run the country’s sports finances, which were previously controlled by an arm of the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI).

The IOC president had also suggested that the alleged interference could — under extreme circumstances — result in Italy being stripped of hosting rights for the 2026 Winter Olympics in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo.

“The framework recognizes that CONI, with extreme clarity and as perhaps isn’t the case in many other countries, has all the functions it is due according to Article 27 of the Olympic Charter,” read a portion of Spadafora’s letter to Bach.

Still, CONI president Giovanni Malagò said earlier Tuesday that “it doesn’t seem that the problems have been solved.”

CONI has traditionally run all sports in Italy, deciding how to divide up millions of dollars of state funding to each of the country’s national sports federations. Now, Sport e Salute handles that responsibility, with 280 million euros ($325 million) handed out for 2020.

While CONI said it has no problem with the funding issue, it has taken exception to Spadafora’s meddling with its election procedures.

Malagò is planning to run for CONI president again next year, but the proposed law could preclude him from serving three consecutive terms.

The reforms must be passed by the end of the month to become law.

“We’ll see what happens over the next few days,” said Malagò, who is an IOC member. “The IOC is waiting, too.”

Possible punishments from the IOC could include preventing Italian athletes competing in Tokyo from wearing their national team uniforms and from hearing their national anthem being played.

Countries whose national Olympic bodies have been suspended for recent Olympics include Russia at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games for a massive doping scandal; and Kuwait at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Games for political interference.

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More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Andrew Dampf is at https://twitter.com/AndrewDampf

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