Sacked Russian Olympic official claims poisoning

A former senior Russian Olympic Committee official fired by President Vladimir Putin over delays in building infrastructure for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi said doctors had found higher than normal levels of mercury in his body, Interfax reported.

Former Russian Olympic Committee deputy chief Akhmed Bilalov, who is being investigated by prosecutors for abuse of authority, said medics at a German resort where he is being treated had discovered traces of the toxic metal.

"An increased amount of mercury was found in my organism," Bilalov said in comments reported at the weekend, adding that he was now feeling "satisfactory" after starting a course of treatment.

Putin publicly humiliated Bilalov when he visited Olympic venues in the Black Sea resort in February and learnt that the ski jumping facilities were behind schedule.

A day later Putin fired Bilalov from the Olympic committee and as chairman of the board of North Caucasus Resorts, the state-funded company responsible for the development of resorts across the region.

Bilalov, who said that he would raise the issue with prosecutors when he returns to Russia, refused to point the finger at anyone over the possible poisoning but said he had started feeling ill last autumn and that the mercury had been at his Moscow office.

Russian officials told Interfax that they had not been contacted about the possible presence of mercury at the office.

The government has struggled to justify the colossal expenses associated with the Olympic construction in Sochi, which, together with infrastructural development in the city, has topped $50 billion (38 million euros, £32 billion).

Traditionally used in thermometers and fluorescent light bulbs, mercury is a highly toxic substance that can be absorbed through the skin or inhaled.

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