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SportAccord's Vizer rebuffed again

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John Berry/Getty Images

LONDON -- Marius Vizer's latest foray into IOC politics earned a blunt rebuke from a senior Olympic leader Friday, as more sports suspended ties with his umbrella body.

The head of the association of summer Olympic sports told Vizer in a sharply-worded letter to stop speaking on behalf of the federations, saying he does not represent their views and has shown a "lack of understanding" of the Olympic movement.

Francesco Ricci Bitti, president of the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations, rejected Vizer's 20-point plan for changes in the IOC as out of touch and of little, if any, merit.

Vizer heads SportAccord, a body representing Olympic and non-Olympic sports federations. ASOIF covers the 28 sports in the Summer Games.

Ricci Bitti, an Italian, is also president of the International Tennis Federation. A copy of his letter was obtained by The Associated Press.

"I urge you politely to refrain from speaking publicly on behalf of the international federations as they do not feel represented by SportAccord and, more importantly, do not agree with your views or the position you have taken," he wrote.

Vizer has been increasingly isolated since launching a scathing attack on the IOC and President Thomas Bach in his opening speech at the SportAccord convention last month in Sochi, Russia.

At least 20 Olympic sports have suspended or withdrawn their membership in SportAccord since then, with the international cycling and fencing federations becoming the latest to announce their departures Friday.

Alisher Usmanov, the Uzbek-born billionaire who heads the fencing body, said Vizer "caused harm to international federations and has not taken their interests into account." He said SportAccord should issue an official apology to Bach.

The international swimming federation, known as FINA, confirmed for the first time that it had suspended its membership on April 22.

Vizer wrote to Bach and Ricci Bitti earlier this week seeking separate meetings with them to clear the air "for the benefit and the unity of the sports movement."

Bach kept Vizer waiting, saying he needed to discuss the invitation with the IOC executive board at its next meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, next month. ASOIF proposed a meeting with Vizer in early June.

On Thursday, Vizer sent Bach a 20-point "reform agenda" ahead of their proposed meeting. Among other things, he calls for the introduction of prize money in the Olympics, a 50 percent stake for federations in the new Olympic television channel and a slot for non-Olympic federations to demonstrate their sports just before and after the games in host cities.

"Your agenda, if needed at all, once again confirms the ambiguity between your roles as president of the International Judo Federation and your wish to represent other international federations as president of SportAccord," Ricci Bitti said in his letter to Vizer. "It also displays a lack of understanding of the governance and functioning of the Olympic movement."

The Italian said many of the issues had already been addressed within Bach's reform program and that Vizer had been fully involved in the consultations.

"It seems from subsequent remarks and correspondence that apparently you failed to represent your views and opinions on those occasions," Ricci Bitti said.

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