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IOC Pres. Willing To Testify

IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch said Thursday he would be willing to testify in the trial of the two former bid leaders indicted in the Salt Lake City Olympics scandal.

In his first extensive comments on last week's indictments of Tom Welch and Dave Johnson, Samaranch said he would continue to cooperate with the Justice Department.

"Every time that there will be a request, as in the past, to give some explanations regarding the IOC, I am ready," he said in an interview with The Associated Press. "If I am asked to testify, my answer is very clear - yes."

Welch, the former Salt Lake bid chief, and Johnson, his chief deputy, were indicted last Thursday on charges of doling out more than $1 million in illicit payments to influence IOC members in the successful campaign for the 2002 Winter Games.

The two men, who deny any criminal wrongdoing, are set to be arraigned next week.

"Personally I am sorry because my collaboration with Welch and Johnson was always very positive," Samaranch said.

The indictment listed 15 IOC members who received cash, scholarships or other inducements from the Salt Lake bid team.

"All the members mentioned have been expelled or withdrawn or punished," Samaranch said. "All the members who didn't respect the Olympic charter are no more in our organization. We did all this within three months."

Of the 15 members listed in the indictment, five were expelled, four resigned, three died and three received warnings.

A trial would be embarrassing for the IOC, as well as the Salt Lake and U.S. Olympic Committees. A plea bargain to avoid a trial remains a possibility.

Samaranch was interviewed twice by federal investigators in the case. While he is prepared to testify at a trial, Samaranch said he doesn't deem his testimony necessary.

"I think that for this, to go to testify again and so on, there must be new facts," he said. "Until now, I cannot see any new facts."

Some have argued that Welch and Johnson were only doing what was encouraged by the IOC's bid process and questioned why no IOC members were being put on trial as well.

"They were on trial," Samaranch said. "They were on trial in the IOC. I think we took very strong measures."

Samaranch dismissed fears that a trial could drag on into the Salt Lake Games, to be staged in February 2002.

"I don't think so," he said. "For many reasons, I think they will finish as soon as possible."

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