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IOC orders inquiry into troubled amateur boxing body AIBA

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TOKYO (AP) — The International Olympic Committee ordered an inquiry Friday into the amateur boxing federation, which elected an alleged heroin trafficker as president four weeks ago.

The IOC said AIBA cannot contact organizers of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics during the inquiry.

IOC spokesman Mark Adams said the inquiry into finance, governance and ethics by a three-member panel “can lead to the withdrawal of recognition” of AIBA.

The full IOC membership next meets in June in Lausanne, Switzerland, which is a deadline the IOC suggested for a final decision on boxing’s future. One option for the IOC is to organize an Olympic boxing tournament, including qualifying, outside of AIBA’s control.

IOC sports director Kit McConnell said the move to postpone a decision was not simply “kicking the can down the road.” He said he’s also hopeful boxing will take place — in some form, run by somebody.

“At the end of the day our goal is still to run an Olympic boxing tournament in Tokyo and protect athletes in that regard,” McConnell said. “All efforts will be made to protect the athletes and make sure a boxing tournament can take place in Tokyo 2020 regardless of these moves.”

AIBA member federations voted for Gafur Rakhimov of Uzbekistan as president in Moscow on Nov. 3 despite being on a U.S. Treasury Department sanctions list.

Rakhimov denies links to organized crime networks and the international drug trade. The long-time AIBA executive committee member was prevented from attending the 2000 Sydney Olympics and 2012 London Olympics by Australian and British government authorities.

The American federal sanctions bar U.S. citizens and companies from doing business with him.

McConnell said the Olympic body is concerned because AIBA has been struggling to open or maintain bank accounts in Switzerland. AIBA is based near IOC headquarters in Lausanne.

During the IOC-appointed inquiry, the Tokyo Olympic boxing program will be frozen: No tickets will be sold, no test event held and no qualifying format approved. The IOC had previously suspended payments to AIBA from Olympic revenues.

The inquiry will be chaired by IOC board member Nenad Lalovic, the Serbian president of wrestling’s governing body. It includes IOC member Richard Carrion of Puerto Rico and IOC athletes commission member Emma Terho, an Ohio State graduate who represented Finland in hockey at previous Olympics.

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IOC: Boxing’s place on Olympic program still ’under threat’

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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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Katie Ledecky, Chloe Kim among Olympians on most marketable athletes list

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Katie Ledecky is the world’s ninth most marketable athlete for the next three years, according to Great Britain’s SportsPro magazine.

The magazine published its full list of the 50 most marketable athletes through summer 2021 on Friday. It’s based on value for money, age, home market, charisma, willingness to be marketed and crossover appeal.

No. 1 is Paul Pogba, the Manchester United star who just won the World Cup with France. He’s followed by 2012 Olympic boxing champion and current world heavyweight champ Anthony Joshua of Great Britain, last year’s No. 1, and French teammate Kylian Mbappé of Paris Saint-Germain, who didn’t make the top 50 last year.

Other Olympians or Olympic hopefuls high on the list: Tennis player Alexander Zverev of Germany (No. 4), Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (No. 5), snowboarding gold medalist Chloe Kim (No. 7), gymnast Simone Biles (No. 15), Alpine skier Mikaela Shiffrin (No. 23), tennis player Naomi Osaka of Japan (No. 27), British swimmer Adam Peaty (No. 38) and British sprinter Dina Asher-Smith (No. 47)

Olympians to be named No. 1 before Joshua were Canadian tennis player Eugenie Bouchard in 2015, Brazilian soccer star Neymar in 2012 and 2013, Usain Bolt in 2011 and LeBron James in 2010, the first year of the rankings.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi were left off last year’s list because they reached a long-cemented commercial peak, SportsPro said. They were also not on this year’s list. Neither was James and Serena Williams.

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