IOC strips Olympic status from troubled boxing body AIBA

Sports

International Olympic Committee, IOC, President Thomas Bach from Germany speaks during the 134th Session of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), at the SwissTech Convention Centre, in Lausanne, Switzerland, Tuesday, June 25, 2019. (Jean-Christophe Bott/Keystone via AP)

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Troubled boxing body AIBA was stripped of Olympic status on Wednesday and the IOC will now organize qualifying and final tournaments for the 2020 Tokyo Games.

AIBA had created “very serious reputational, legal and financial risks” for the IOC and its stakeholders, not just the American ones, Olympic inquiry panel chairman Nenad Lalovic said.

The election of AIBA president Gafur Rakhimov, who is under United States federal sanctions for suspected links to eastern European organized crime, prodded the IOC last year to investigate boxing’s governance, debts and integrity of Olympic bouts.

International Olympic Committee members voted Wednesday to endorse the executive board’s recommendation last month to suspend AIBA’s Olympic status.

Lausanne-based AIBA has said it is near bankruptcy with debts of about $17 million. It is cut off from income from Tokyo revenues, and the 2019 world championships for men and women in Russia are now devalued without the lure of being Olympic qualifiers.

AIBA has an emergency meeting scheduled for Thursday in Geneva. Lalovic is expected to represent the IOC and meet AIBA executive committee members aiming to retain a role in the plan for Tokyo.

“I hope the IOC does realize there are many people in AIBA who are respectful, ethical and transparent who can provide their expertise,” Bulgarian boxing official Emilia Grueva said in a statement.

AIBA hoped for a reprieve by Rakhimov leaving his duties to an interim replacement in March, though he could choose to return at any time this year.

“These risks don’t disappear by the mere fact of Mr. Rakhimov ‘stepping aside,'” IOC board member Lalovic said, adding the Uzbek’s “level of influence and control remains uncertain.”

In December 2017, the U.S. Treasury Department noted “Rakhimov has been described as having moved from extortion and car theft to becoming one of Uzbekistan’s leading criminals and an important person involved in the heroin trade.”

The IOC had to avoid the consequences of fixed bouts or suspect results in Tokyo, said Morinari Watanabe, who leads the Olympic panel overseeing the Tokyo boxing competitions.

“It’s not just losing trust in boxing. It’s lost trust in the Olympic Games, it’s lost trust in the IOC,” said Watanabe, the Japanese president of the International Gymnastics Federation.

IOC president Thomas Bach said: “We are all concerned with the refereeing.”

Boxers’ lack of faith in AIBA at each Olympics from 2008 to 2016 was raised by Lalovic, who led a three-member inquiry team.

Those doubts persisted despite AIBA reviews after each Olympics, he told an audience that included former AIBA president C.K. Wu, an IOC member for 31 years.

Wu oversaw each post-Olympic integrity review. He was ousted by AIBA officials two years ago amid a deepening financial crisis and protests about his often secretive leadership style.

Qualifying tournaments for Tokyo are intended to be held in four continents from January through March, likely in London, China, Senegal and Argentina. All are recent or future hosts of Olympic boxing competitions. A final global qualifier is expected to be held in Japan.

That should give each boxer at least two chances to qualify, in eight weight classes for men and five for women.

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