TOKYO: The president of the Japanese Olympic Committee said he will step down, two months after French authorities said they were investigating whether he sanctioned bribes to help Tokyo win the 2020 Olympic Games.
Tsunekazu Takeda, who has been JOC president since 2001, reiterated on Tuesday that he had done nothing wrong, following a meeting of the Committee at which he said he wouldn't seek re-election when his current term ends in June, according to a Dow Jones Newswires report made available to Efe News.
"I will endeavour to prove my innocence," he told reporters. "I feel sorry for all the fuss."
Takeda, 71, said he would also step down as a member of the International Olympic Committee.
The French investigation into Tokyo's Olympic bid centers on two payments totaling $2.1 million paid to a Singapore-based company called Black Tidings before IOC members voted in 2013 for Tokyo to host the 2020 Games.
Investigators are looking into whether money was routed to African IOC members to secure their votes, with the approval of Takeda.
Takeda, the JOC's longest-serving President and a second cousin of Japanese Emperor Akihito, has said the JOC paid Black Tidings appropriately for consulting services and no bribery had taken place.
A Japanese investigation into the payments in 2016 found no illegality.
A report issued by two lawyers and an accountant who conducted the investigation said the Tokyo bidding committee felt that it risked losing the vote to Madrid and sought assistance from Black Tidings, which provided help to Beijing in a prior successful Olympic bid.
The report said the bidding committee didn't know the head of Black Tidings, Tan Tong Han, had a close personal relationship with Papa Massata Diack, the son of a former IOC official from Senegal, and a focus of the French investigation.
The French probe is part of a multiyear investigation into corruption in athletics that was widened in 2016 to include the selection process for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and the 2020 Games. Brazilian and French prosecutors have alleged Diack was paid $2 million by a Brazilian government contractor to secure his father's vote for the 2016 Games.
Tokyo will host the Olympics for a second time next year, from July 24 to August 9. Japan previously hosted the Games in 1964.