Former Olympic Official Axed By Vladimir Putin Recovering After Claiming He Was Poisoned
A former Olympic official who fled Russia after President Vladimir Putin criticized him for delays and cost overruns before the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi "claims he has been poisoned," according to Miriam Elder of the London GUARDIAN. Former Russian Olympic Committee Deputy Head Akhmed Bilalov, fired in February, said on Saturday that doctors "had discovered elevated mercury levels in his blood." He is "receiving treatment in Germany." Bilalov: "They have found elevated levels of mercury in my body. I didn't want to announce this before, but now that the press has found out, I'm forced to confirm it." According to online news portal Gazeta.ru, which saw a copy of Bilalov's medical report, the former official "is at a clinic in Baden-Baden." Doctors "found four times the normal amount of mercury in his blood" (GUARDIAN, 4/28). R-SPORT reported Russian police said that they "would investigate the claims if Bilalov made a formal complaint." An Interior Ministry spokesperson said, "Bilalov obviously can turn to the law enforcement bodies with the relevant application. It will be looked into in the specified manner." Bilalov "has been under investigation for at least a month." In early March, prosecutors claimed that he had appropriated about $2.6M from Northern Caucasus Resorts "to charter flights to France and England, as well as a helicopter flight from a hotel to an airport in the United Arab Emirates" (R-SPORT, 4/27).
CORRUPTION AFFECT: R-SPORT also reported Putin said Thursday that any concerns over corruption afflicting the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics "will not affect the running of the Games themselves." Billions of rubles have been poured into Russia's first Winter Games since the IOC awarded the country the hosting rights in '07. Putin, who lobbied hard to secure the Games, acknowledged that "there were fears that a significant portion of the federal funds allocated could disappear" (R-SPORT, 4/25).