IOC issues ethics rules for presidential campaign

No campaign rallies, no debates and definitely no tweeting.

Candidates in the next IOC presidential election will face a series of ethics rules that may prove as difficult to police as to obey.

A ban on use of social networks is just one of the wide-ranging regulations included in a "code of conduct" issued by the International Olympic Committee's ethics commission.

The rules, approved by the IOC executive board this week, come into force immediately and cover any potential contenders to succeed Jacques Rogge as president in 2013.

The bottom line: "The promotion of a candidature shall be conducted with dignity and moderation."

The regulations also apply to IOC members, Olympic sponsors and other members of the Olympic movement and seek to "prevent any excesses" in the election race.

Rogge was elected IOC president in 2001 and was re-elected unopposed to a final fourth-year term in 2009. The campaign to succeed him hasn't officially started, although contenders are already positioning themselves for the contest.

Among the likely candidates are IOC vice president Thomas Bach of Germany and executive board member Richard Carrion of Puerto Rico. Other possible contenders include executive board members Denis Oswald and Rene Fasel of Switzerland, and Ser Miang of Singapore.

While there is no official opening date for declaration of candidacies, the race is expected to take shape following next year's London Olympics. The deadline for members to throw their hats in the ring is three months before the election, which will take place in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Sept. 10, 2013.

The rules have been updated since the last contested election, in which Rogge defeated four rivals — Kim Un-yong of South Korea, Dick Pound of Canada, Pal Schmitt of Hungary and Anita DeFrantz of the United States — in the vote in Moscow 10 years ago.

The new ethics code states that candidates may submit a written campaign platform to IOC members, but must not use the document for any promotional or communications purposes.

Among the provisions: "The promotion of a candidature for the IOC presidency shall exclude any form of publicity, including the use of new media or social networks."

The impact of that rule may not be so great. Most IOC members — apart from the younger athletes' members — do not use Twitter or other social networks anyway.

In addition, candidates may not organize public meetings or a "gathering of any kind" to promote themselves.

"The candidates may not take part in any public debate, regardless of the organizer," the rules state.

Campaign trips should be limited in order to "avoid excessive expenditure."

IOC members are prohibited from offering financial or other assistance to candidates, and visits by candidates to members "are not encouraged."

Since the election is carried out by secret ballot, members are barred from announcing how they intend to vote.

The regulations include a section covering other members of the Olympic movement, namely the global corporate sponsors in the IOC's so-called TOP program.

Sponsors, national Olympic bodies, international sports federations and others "shall remain neutral" in the race, according to the ethics document.

"No direct or indirect assistance, be it financial, material or in kind, may be given to candidates by an Olympic movement constituent, TOP sponsor, IOC partner or other third party," it states.

As for the rival contenders, they must show mutual respect and not do anything "to harm the image" of another. Collusion among candidates to influence the outcome of the vote is banned.

The IOC administration in Lausanne must also observe "strict neutrality at all times."

Monitoring and enforcing the rules will be tricky. The ethics panel said it will investigate any rules violations that are brought to its attention by "any interested party."

If there is proof of a breach, the commission can issue a public warning. In the event of a "serious breach," the case would be referred to the IOC executive board for unspecified sanctions — presumably including the possibility of expulsion from the race.