Table tennis power tackles, threatens to have legal action over presidency

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Just two weeks away from the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF)'s presidential elections in Paris, the only two candidates, long-time leader Adham Sharara and challenger Stefano Bosi, are still wrangling against each other over Sharara's alleged corruption.

"Of course it is very difficult to keep these two aspects separated: the documents we produced are very clear and they refer to what happened around ITTF in the recent years, hence fully concerning Mr. Sharara Presidency," Bosi, head of the European Table Tennis Union (ETTU) for 17 years, told Xinhua in an interview via email.

Earlier this month, each ITTF Executive Board Continental President received an email signed by Bosi, informing "the unpleasant situation" that ETTU had ascertained about President of the sport's world governing body, Sharara, committing "several long-term, serious and persistent infringements of ITTF regulations and ethical principles", even breaking laws, as well as violating the Olympic Charter.

Bosi, who later announced to bid for the ITTF presidency, claimed through the letter that the Eypty-born Canadian has had "misbehavior and conflicts of interests of ITTF" over his close involvement with companies dealing with ITTF's real estate investments in Ottawa and Hull, the Gladstone Health Center and the operation of ITTF's marketing company, the TMS.

Sharara, who has been in charge of the world table tennis ruling body for 14 years, however, hit back by saying that Bosi was mixing some correct information with a lot of false and is trying to shame him for political gain. ' "The ITTF is an open and democratic Federation. The candidacy of Mr. Stefano Bosi for president is welcome. Anyone in the ITTF has the right to be nominated for any position. The delegates form the member national associations then decide democratically by vote who they wish to lead the ITTF.

"However, to use allegations, accusations and false information as an election platform is very regrettable," Sharara said, "I totally deny and refute any accusation of any illegality in my actions over the entire period as ITTF president (1999-2013) and deputy-president (1995-1999). Any accusation of illegal activity must be presented to a court of law to make a legal decision."

"I will let the legal system through the courts decide on these allegations. Regarding being accused of conflict of interest, this is also a false claim, but I will let the ITTF membership decide by itself," he added.

If there's one thing that Bosi agrees with Sharara, it'll be that the arguement between the duo should end up in court.

"For sure it will be up to the Court to ascertain responsibilities if any, but we and Associations have to decide if we can continue in trusting a person that was hiding so many important aspect of ITTF financial situation," said Bosi. "I simply guess this is no mere possible and somebody had to challenge this way to act and propose a new, transparent roadmap: ITTF is a prestigious international federation, not a business corporation."

He stated that he feels obliged to make it public as soon as he and the ETTU found the alleged wrong-doing from Sharara, for the good of the Federation and for protecting the sport from being hurt.

"To ignore this and NOT to report such serious infringements to upper bodies in Sport and to Courts was meaning to take a great responsibility, " he said. "We're talking about huge amounts of money and many procedures completely out of rules. In my view, there was no other way to tackle the congress otherwise. And we did it as soon as we got the information."

"We cannot pretend to disregard all this... it would be simply irresponsible. Those blaming me for supposed unfairness forgot or want to ignore how serious the problem is and can become."

It has been the first time in the of ITTF's 87 years history that candidates for the Federation's presidency turned so aggressive against each other during their pre-vote campaign.

Sharara, a former player without outstanding on-pitch achievement, has made many innovations on his term of 14-year presidency, including changes to the scoring system and equipment. he confirmed with Xinhua that he'll remain a candidate for the ITTF president's position for 2013-2017, but if he wins the May 15 election, this will be his last term of office. "I hope to win with the great support of the member national associations of the ITTF who know me well and know my character," he said.

Bosi, also having played table tennis in his early career as a player, expressed to Xinhua the same confidence of winning the bid. "Yes, I am, and the wide consensus I'm getting is a good omen," he said. "We're asserting a different ITTF model with less business, more democracy and more participation."

"First and foremost, we're strongly supporting the idea the Continents are our core. I absolutely dislike an ITTF absorbing any function to keep everything under control. We've to put the basis for the growth of the whole table tennis worldwide, respecting the different Continental's cultures and autonomies and the specific federation's needs: this didn't happen in the recent years".

"I aim Continents working together, cooperating each other, with the stronger supporting and helping the weaker. I think all this as possible, as ITTF have a good and very professional organization: a group of very good professionals that we have to take into high consideration.

"I do not deny many good results ITTF had in the last years, and I'm sure this organization has an enormous know-how, a very high potential and, if association will decide, a bright future," he added. Endi

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