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IOC board recommends AIBA suspension, boxing stays in Olympics

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The International Olympic Committee executive board recommended that AIBA has its recognition as boxing’s international federation suspended but that the sport remains on the Olympic program at the 2020 Tokyo Games.

An IOC decision on the recommendation will be made next month. The IOC created a group to organize 2020 Olympic boxing qualifying and competition if AIBA will not be allowed to run it.

“We want to ensure that the athletes can live their dream and participate in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 while drawing the necessary consequences for AIBA,” IOC president Thomas Bach said in a press release. “At the same time, we offer a pathway back to lifting the suspension, but there needs to be further fundamental change.”

The IOC said in October that boxing’s place in the Olympics was “under threat” after being introduced at the 1904 St. Louis Games and held at every Games since except Stockholm 1912.

In November, the IOC ordered an inquiry into AIBA, which has been in financial turmoil, faced claims of fixed bouts at the Rio Games and elected a president linked to organized crime.

That president, Uzbek Gafur Rakhimov, stepped aside in March to let an interim leader take charge but said he was not resigning. Rakhimov is on a U.S. Treasury Department sanctions list for suspected links to an organized crime group in former Soviet Union republics involved in heroin trafficking. He denies any wrongdoing.

“Serious governance issues remain, including breaches of the Olympic Charter and the IOC Code of Ethics regarding good governance and ethics, leading to serious reputational, legal and financial risks for the IOC, the Olympic Movement and its stakeholders,” the inquiry committee concluded. “AIBA has been unable to demonstrate a sustainable and fair management of refereeing and judging processes and decisions, increasing the lack of confidence that athletes can have in fair competitions.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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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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