Bedard bombshell Ex-Olympian tells hearing $12m paid to racer; ad firm in drug trade By JIM BROWN / The Canadian Press OTTAWA - Former Olympian Myriam Bedard dropped a bombshell Wednesday, telling MPs about rumours of drug trafficking by a Montreal ad firm involved in the sponsorship scandal and $12 million US in payments to race car driver Jacques Villeneuve to wear the Canada logo on his uniform. Bedard cited her agent, Jean-Marc St-Pierre, as the source of her "top secret" information about Villeneuve and admitted she couldn't confirm if it was true. Groupaction president Jean Brault denied late Wednesday his company had any involvement in drug dealing. St-Pierre said he had never told her anything about Villeneuve's financial dealings. Brault described the allegations of drug trafficking made by Bedard as "outrageous." "This allegation is completely false and was made without one element of proof, without one iota of truth," he said in a statement, indicating he may sue. Bedard told the Commons public accounts committee the report of drug trafficking at Groupaction came from Marc LeFrancois, former president of Via Rail. She later added, however, that LeFrancois backtracked a few days later and told her to "forget what I said." LeFrancois could not immediately be reached for comment. Nor could Villeneuve or his spokesmen. But St-Pierre told RDS, Quebec's French-language TV all-sports network, he was "very surprised to hear Myriam say today that I had said that." "I never, never said to Myriam Bedard that Jacques Villeneuve had a $12 million US sponsorship. I don't know anything about Jacques Villeneuve's sponsorships." He said he and Bedard might have discussed the monetary differences in sponsorship contracts won by amateur and professional athletes and idly speculated what one athlete or another might be worth. "I also don't remember seeing any Canada logos on Jacques Villeneuve," he said. "I think Myriam's memory is somewhat vague or imprecise. We might have talked about sponsorships but certainly not Jacque Villeneuve's because I don't know anything about them." Some photos taken at time show that Villeneuve's uniform had a small Canadian flag on the right thigh. Bedard, a two-time gold medallist in the biathlon, sparked a political storm in February when she said she had been forced from her marketing job at Via Rail after raising questions about inflated payments to Quebec ad firms under the sponsorship program. She testified Wednesday that she was too fearful to go public at the time - in January 2002 - because of the circumstances surrounding her departure. "I didn't understand it, I was in shock," she told the committee. Bedard said LeFrancois phoned her one morning to say she had to quit. If she didn't, she was told, board chairman Jean Pelletier, who had been a top aide to then-prime minister Jean Chretien, would see to it that she was transferred to a job at Groupaction, which had close links to Via. Bedard said she didn't want to go to the ad firm because LeFrancois had told her a few months earlier that Groupaction "was implicated in drug trafficking. "I was afraid, I was psychologically paralysed." Under questioning by committee members, Bedard could provide no other evidence of the alleged drug dealing. And she said LeFrancois, who made the remarks in the fall of 2001, later retracted his words and told her: "I think I said too much. You've got to forget what I said." As for the supposed $12 million payment to Villeneuve, Bedard said her agent told her the figure during a conversation at the 1997 or 1998 Montreal Grand Prix. "I was told this was top secret." But again, she could provide no further information and said she didn't know if the money was paid under the sponsorship program. Conservative MP John Williams, chairman of the public accounts committee, said after the hearing he considered Bedard an "extremely credible witness." He acknowledged the Villeneuve allegations would require further checking, but said "Canadians will be outraged" if it's true he was paid millions just to wear the country's logo. Williams said it's beyond the mandate of the committee to look into the drug dealing allegations but suggested the RCMP may want to do so. LeFrancois was fired as Via president earlier this month after being fingered by Auditor General Sheila Fraser for his role in several questionable deals under the sponsorship program. Pelletier was also fired as Via chairman after he belittled Bedard, suggesting she was a "poor woman in a pitiful state" who was feeling the pressure of being a single mother. Pelletier apologized, but Prime Minister Paul Martin gave him the boot anyway. Bedard had written personally to Martin after he issued a public call in mid-February for whistleblowers to help the government get to the bottom of the scandal.