Dealing a blow to Olympic boxing officials after months of investigations, the IOC has set up a vote next month on removing the sport’s governing body AIBA from organizing bouts at the 2020 Tokyo Games.
The International Olympic Committee’s executive board on Wednesday proposed suspending AIBA — a move that will go before the full IOC membership at their June 24-26 annual meeting. However, the IOC intends to keep boxing’s 13 medal events on the Tokyo program.
AIBA’s finances, governance and integrity of judging and refereeing have been investigated for six months by an inquiry panel of three IOC members, which published its report Wednesday.
A key factor proved to be the continued influence of Gafur Rakhimov, AIBA’s president from Uzbekistan who stepped aside in March. He is on a U.S. Treasury Department sanctions list for suspected links to organized crime and international heroin trafficking.
Rakhimov’s election six months ago “exposes the IOC, the Olympic Movement stakeholders and its partners, to unacceptable reputational, legal and financial risks,” the inquiry report said, citing problems for American sponsors and sports officials.
The Lausanne-based boxing organization now looks sure to be being rejected next month despite wide-ranging reforms since longtime president C.K. Wu, who remains an IOC member, was forced out in 2017.
“There has been a lack of satisfactory progress,” said the IOC, whose board followed the inquiry panel’s recommendations that all areas of concern were unresolved.
Though Russian boxing official Umar Kremlev has publicly offered to clear AIBA’s $16 million debts, the inquiry report questioned the due diligence of “background checks on the origin of funds.”
AIBA can challenge any final decision by IOC members at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and later at Switzerland’s supreme court. Federal judges can intervene in limited circumstances, such as if legal process was abused or a party was denied a fair hearing.
The boxing body said it will seek “further clarification” about the report, adding it “does look forward to working with the IOC in the future.”
A different IOC-appointed task force will now look at ways to organize men’s and women’s Olympic qualifying competitions from January to May, and the final tournaments in Tokyo which start in 14 months’ time.
That timetable makes the AIBA-run men’s and women’s world championships — scheduled to be held in Russia in September and October, respectively — obsolete as the main Olympic qualifying paths.
Despite its issues with AIBA, the IOC has wanted to keep boxing on the Olympic program. The sport appeals to fans and broadcasters worldwide, and offers many countries the chance to win medals.
“We want to ensure that the athletes can live their dream and participate in the Olympic Games,” IOC President Thomas Bach said, “while drawing the necessary consequences for AIBA.”
Boxing had 76 national teams competing in 13 medal events at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, in 10 men’s weight categories and three for women. The Tokyo program is set to have eight men’s events and five for women.
A total of 19 nations won at least one medal in Rio, including Mongolia and Venezuela. Uzbekistan topped the medals table with three golds and seven overall.
However, the Rio tournaments fueled long-standing doubts about the integrity of Olympic bouts. In Rio, AIBA under Wu’s leadership sent home referees and judges it said fell short of expected standards.
The IOC increased scrutiny of AIBA after Wu resigned under pressure from AIBA member federations. Those same national boxing bodies later defied warnings from the IOC’s ethics commission about potential consequences of electing Rakhimov.
In its final report, the IOC inquiry also criticized AIBA’s ethics and election oversight panels, claiming “none of these bodies seriously considered his (Rahkimov’s) situation.”
The IOC board ordered the formal inquiry within weeks of Rakhimov’s election, and also barred AIBA officials from contacting Tokyo organizers.
Offering a path back Wednesday, the IOC said: “The status of AIBA’s full recognition will in principle be reviewed after Tokyo 2020” — if it could make “further fundamental change.”
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