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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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Cuban boxer with two Olympic gold medals leaves national team

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Robeisy Ramirez, the only man to win boxing gold at both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, left the national team during a training camp in Mexico, according to Cuba’s national sports institute.

“Attitudes like this are far from our values and the discipline that characterizes our sport,” the Cuban sports institute read, adding that Ramirez was “turning his back” on his teammates, according to a Reuters translation.

Ramirez, then 18, became the youngest Olympic men’s boxing champion in 32 years when he won the flyweight division at London 2012. He moved up to bantamweight in Rio and beat American Shakur Stevenson in that final, becoming the eight Cuban boxer to earn multiple gold medals.

Ramirez was an underdog at both of his Olympics, having lost in the round of 16 at the 2011 World Championships and been off the national team for six months in 2014 and passed over for Cuba’s spot at the 2015 Worlds.

Ramirez joins a long list of star Cuban athletes to leave the national team or defect. Joahnys Argilagos, a 2016 Olympic light flyweight bronze medalist and two-time world champion, reportedly left the national team in March, also while in Mexico.

Ramirez would be free to turn professional if he’s no longer with the Cuban national team, rather than pursue a third gold medal at Tokyo 2020.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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Boxer Muhammad Ali banned

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British Olympic boxer Muhammad Ali was provisionally suspended after testing positive for a banned steroid on April 21, the International Boxing Association (AIBA) said Thursday.

The case is now in the hands of an AIBA anti-doping panel.

Ali, 21, gained attention after qualifying for the Olympics last year because he shares a name with the legendary American boxer.

Ali, who was born in 1996, the year the other Ali lit the Olympic cauldron, lost his opening flyweight bout in Rio.

“When people used to mention about my name, at first I was like, ‘They are at it again,'” Ali said in February 2016, according to the Yorkshire Post. “But now I am just getting used to it.

“It doesn’t bother me, and I have just got to go out and perform and show them that I am half decent. Hopefully I can be half as good as the real Ali one day.”

Ali is a 2014 Youth Olympic bronze medalist and a 2015 European silver medalist in the 52kg division. He lost in the quarterfinals of the 2015 World Championships.

Ali also grew up training in the same gym as 2004 Olympic silver medalist Amir Khan.

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