Olympic bosses made an impassioned plea to Brazilian authorities today to allow Irish Olympic Committee (IOC) president Patrick Hickey to return home while awaiting trial over an alleged ticketing scam.
Hickey, who is also the head of the European Olympic Committee, was arrested by Brazilian police during the Rio Olympics in August as part of a raid into an illegal ticket sales scheme.
He denies any wrongdoing but has been formally charged, along with nine others, with ticket-touting, ambush marketing, theft, tax evasion, money-laundering and criminal association. He has stepped down from both posts while the investigation continues.
The trial date has still not been set but could take up to two years to be heard, according to his lawyers.
The 71-year-old Hickey remains under house arrest in Brazil but has had his passport confiscated and has been banned from leaving the country.
His lawyers and Olympic officials have asked that he be allowed to return home to Ireland until the case is heard.
Hickey was a noticeable absentee from the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) general assembly in Doha on Tuesday but several officials mentioned his case.
“Patrick Hickey is still detained in Brazil and not allowed to leave the country,” said Janez Kocijancic, who is currently serving as acting president of the European Olympic Committee.
“He was charged with criminal offences and we do not think he committed them.
“He is 71 and has heart problems. We hope he will be allowed home to prepare to prove his innocence.
“We do not ask for mercy but for a human approach.”
The ANOC president, Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah, referred to Hickey as our “dear VP” while the IOC president Thomas Bach, a lawyer himself, also touched on the subject of Hickey’s case in his keynote address, but chose his words carefully.
“We have to put the system into place for prevention, and, if that fails, for sanctioning and appropriate measures. We should never claim the sports world is immune.
“Patrick Hickey is still in Brazil concerning the sale of tickets,” Bach said. “We have to say, clearly, that as long as there is no result, our colleague enjoys the presumption of innocence.”