The International Olympic Committee repeated Wednesday that boxing’s place on the Olympic program is “under threat,” but the IOC will work to ensure boxers can compete amid its concerns with the sport’s international governing body.
The IOC executive board “expressed its ongoing extreme concern with the grave situation within the International Boxing Association (AIBA) and its current governance,” it said in a statement. “These include the circumstances of the establishment of the election list and the misleading communication within the AIBA membership regarding the IOC’s position.
“Such behavior is affecting not just the reputation of AIBA and boxing but of sport in general.”
The IOC executive board warned AIBA about its Olympic status in February. AIBA has been in financial turmoil, faced claims of fixed bouts at the Rio Olympics and now has an interim president linked to organized crime.
An AIBA document of “approved candidates” lists Uzbek Gafur Rakhimov as the only choice ahead of next month’s presidential elections in Moscow. Rakhimov has been serving as interim president at a time when the IOC has repeatedly expressed concern about how boxing is run.
Rakhimov was described by the U.S. Treasury Department last year as “one of Uzbekistan’s leading criminals and an important person involved in the heroin trade.”
The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control froze Rakhimov’s assets in American jurisdiction and prohibited Americans from “conducting financial or other transactions” with him.
The IOC said if “governance issues are not properly addressed” next month in Moscow, “the existence of boxing on the Olympic program and even the recognition of AIBA as an international federation recognized by the IOC are under threat.”
IOC spokesman Mark Adams said, “the IOC executive board wanted to send a very clear message that all steps are being considered, but not those that would penalize the athletes.”
Senior AIBA members were not accredited for the Youth Olympics that begin this weekend in Buenos Aires. Boxing is on the Youth Olympic program. There will be independent oversight of boxing’s results system in Buenos Aires.
The IOC will “do its upmost to ensure that the athletes do not have to suffer under these circumstances and that we will protect their Olympic dream,” according to its statement.
Rakhimov has been serving as interim president of AIBA after the long-serving C.K. Wu resigned last year following internal disputes and allegations of grave financial problems at the governing body, which oversees amateur boxing, Olympic events and holds some of its own pro competitions.
In a sign of ongoing power struggles, AIBA said Tuesday that its upcoming congress would vote on whether to ban Wu and another official, Ho Kim, for life, citing what executive director Tom Virgets called “the gross negligence and financial mismanagement of the previous leadership.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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