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Hungary President Pal Schmitt quits in plagiarism scandal

Laszlo Beliczay/EPA

Hungarian President Pal Schmitt (left) announces his resignation in parliament in Budapest, Hungary, Monday.

Hungary's president, former Olympic gold medalist Pal Schmitt, said Monday that he would resign after being accused of plagiarism and stripped of his doctorate, according to media reports.

Schmitt has been the target of public ire over the past few days when he chose to stay in office despite evidence that he had transposed practically his entire doctoral thesis 20 years ago, local English language news site portfolio.hu reported.

The BBC said Budapest's Semmelweis University last week revoked his 1992 award after finding that much of his thesis -- on the topic of the modern Olympic games -- was based entirely on earlier work by Bulgarian researcher Nikolai Georgiev.

Schmitt, elected in 2010, said "my personal issue divides my beloved nation rather than unites it," according to the BBC report. "It is my duty to end my service and resign my mandate as president."

'Ethical' criteria
The BBC said Schmitt, 69, won gold medals for fencing at the 1968 and 1972 Olympic Games.

The Bloomberg news agency reported that Schmitt has headed the Hungarian Olympic Committee since 1990 and was vice president of the International Olympic Committee from 1995 to 1999. He was a deputy state secretary for sports under communism in the 1980s.

Schmitt's thesis "didn't meet the ethical and professional criteria of scientific work," Tivadar Tulassay, the rector of Semmelweis University was quoted as saying by Bloomberg, after the university stripped the president of his doctoral title.

Tulassay himself quit Sunday, citing a "loss of trust| from the government ministry overseeing the university, Bloomberg said.

An investigation began after the HVG.hu news website first alleged in January that Schmitt's thesis copied material from other research.

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