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The Associated Press May 23, 2012, 11:03AM ET

Ukrainian official suspended in ticket probe

A top Ukrainian Olympic official was suspended Tuesday following allegations that he offered to sell thousands of dollars worth of tickets for the London Games on the black market.

Volodymyr Gerashchenko, secretary general of Ukraine's national Olympic committee, was accused in a BBC television report of telling an undercover reporter posing as an unauthorized dealer that he was willing to sell up to 100 tickets for cash.

Sergei Bubka, president of the Ukrainian committee and an IOC member, said he called Gerashchenko in Kiev on Tuesday to tell him he was suspended pending an investigation.

Bubka said he would set up an independent commission Wednesday to investigate Gerashchenko, who has been secretary general of the Ukrainian Olympic body since 1997.

"We must be fair and come to a correct decision," Bubka said in Quebec, where he is attending Olympic meetings and the SportAccord conference.

The former pole vault champion said he would cut short his stay in Quebec to fly to Ukraine on Wednesday to deal with the case.

Bubka said he informed the International Olympic Committee of the investigation, and also told Sebastian Coe, head of the London organizing committee, that Ukraine would cooperate with any inquiry carried out in Britain.

It is a criminal offense in Britain to sell Olympic tickets on the black market, an offense punishable by fines of up to $30,000. Under rules applying outside the European Union, tickets can be sold only to people who are residents in that country.

Ukraine's committee received about 2,900 tickets as part of its official Olympic allocation, Bubka said.

"There has never been a situation where we have had a surplus number of tickets and those that we have received will all be distributed using official channels," Bubka said. "It is imperative that tickets are distributed to deserving recipients."

The BBC said its reporter posing as an unauthorized ticket dealer from Britain spoke by phone with Gerashchenko, who said he would be prepared to sell tickets.

"I understand you're a dealer," he told the reporter. "That's why for me, you are priority No. 1, the top, the person, in case we have extra tickets to contact you, we contact you."

The undercover reporter later met in London with Gerashchenko, who said he was in the process of distributing tickets to Ukrainian fans, coaches and officials. After that, he said, he would be prepared to sell up to 100 spare tickets.

The Ukrainian said he preferred to complete the sale by cash.

"Better cash and finished with it," he said.

The BBC later approached Gerashchenko and asked why he was prepared to break Olympic rules and British law by illegally selling tickets.

He contended he had "never planned to sell tickets in the UK" and had been making "diplomatic talk to satisfy the persistent interest of the ticket dealer."

Gerashchenko said the meeting with the undercover reporter "was unofficial, with no intention to make any real deal."

"I have nothing to propose," he said. "I did not have real tickets to sell. I agreed to do this meeting only for the reason not to offend the person from the host country who asked me several times for a meeting."

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