The International Cycling Union (UCI) has formally rejected claims by a BBC report it accepted £1.5 million in return for keirin's introduction as an Olympic Games sport. The British media outlet claimed that the international federation received the payments from Japanese keirin organizers two months after it announced keirin would debut at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.
When confronted with the allegations, former UCI president Hein Verbruggen said the costs covered by the Japanese were related to the sport's promotion and development. Verbruggen, who now works for the International Olympic Committee, said that there was total transparency in the UCI's dealings with the Japanese.
"UCI looked into this matter when questions were first raised by the BBC in early June," said the UCI in a release. "A thorough examination of our records and interviews with those involved has turned up no evidence that this was anything other than a straightforward, completely proper arrangement to promote track cycling.
"As UCI exists to promote cycling, it is perfectly logical that UCI would cooperate with Japanese national cycling groups to encourage international interest in track cycling," continued the release. "The agreement did not include any provision regarding keirin's acceptance as an Olympic sport or even a commitment by UCI to seek its inclusion in the Olympic programme. To conclude otherwise would be incorrect."
The report came after the BBC was given a document showing flights for Verbruggen that had been paid for by the Japanese keirin association. A top Japanese cycling official identified only as Mr Koramasu confirmed that no deal was done with the UCI for keirin's Olympic inclusion.
Koramasu confirmed that there had never been an additional direct payment of cash to the UCI. He said they had supported the sport's development by building training centers in Japan and the only cash payment he was aware of to the UCI was its membership fee - paid by all member nations.
The UCI pointed out that the timeline between its revival of track racing promotion plans and the discipline's inclusion in the Olympic Games didn't fit. It also aid all expenses related to its track promotion agreement were reviewed by an independent auditor and deemed proper.
"In fact, the agreement was signed six months after keirin was entered in the programme, along with three other track cycling events - the men's Olympic sprint and Madison, and the women's 500-meter time trial," said the UCI. "The agreement produced clear benefits for all track cycling disciplines as evidenced by the superb progression of track cycling over the past 10 years.
"It allowed UCI to hire a full-time track cycling coordinator, support track cycling events around the world and contributed to the establishment of a world cycling center, including a velodrome in Switzerland," it continued. "Through UCI's efforts, track cycling was rejuvenated in the mid-1990s."