Let's make this clear: No one believes Mohammed bin Hammam, the FIFA executive committee member instrumental in bringing the 2022 World Cup to his native Qatar, didn't bribe people. It's still pretty much accepted that bin Hammam was the brains behind the envelopes full of cash handed out to representative of Caribbean soccer nations, with the hint that they might want to vote for him in last year's FIFA presidential election. No one's saying bin Hammam doesn't deserve to be banned from the sport for life, as FIFA announced last summer.
It's just that FIFA didn't do a good job proving it.
"No efforts were made to trace the source of (the) banknotes that were photographed," said the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which today overturned bin Hammam's ban.
The panel, which was split 2-1 in his favor, "is not making any sort of affirmative finding of innocence in relation to Mr. Bin Hammam," the court said. "It is more likely than not that Mr. Bin Hammam was the source of the monies that were brought into Trinidad and Tobago" at an election campaign rally in May 2011.
Good news for bin Hammam, and bad news for Louis Freeh's agency, which handled FIFA's bribery probe. The next step: a new, "independent" investigation led by former U.S. Attorney Michael J. Garcia into a whole mess of FIFA malfeasance, including that of current President Sepp Blatter. We'll see if that one turns up anything, and if so, if punishment can stand for more than a year.