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  • ATR First: Rahimov Won't Drop AIBA Presidential Bid


    (ATR) Interim AIBA President Gafur Rahimov is paying no heed to calls from the IOC not to run for a full term at the helm of Olympic boxing federation.

    In a message Monday to the federation, Rahimov calls for calm and unity as AIBA approaches elections in November. The elections are one of a dozen and a half points that the IOC has raised with AIBA. It has threatened to suspend boxing from Tokyo 2020 if changes are not made.

    “For the first time in our history we are not only providing transparency and good governance guidelines but we are ensuring that they are being followed,” Rahimov says in his September newsletter published on the AIBA website.

    Rahimov urged AIBA member federations not to be influenced by “any rumours floating around in emails or news on various sports websites”.

    “It is important for us all to remember that we will make our choices based on what we – and only we – think will be the best for boxing worldwide,” he said.

    Rahimov did not address a confidential letter from the IOC Ethics and Compliance officer Pâquerette Girard-Zappelli that says Rahimov should not run for office.

    The IOC’s ethics chief says that while Rahimov’s name had been removed from the INTERPOL warrant list in Uzbekistan, the US Department of Treasury still considers Rahimov as part of or linked to two transnational criminal organizations. Rahimov has never faced charges.

    “As a consequence, it will be crucial, for the best interests of boxing within the Olympic movement, that only candidates benefiting from a full clean situation can stand for the president’s position,” Girard-Zappelli writes in the Aug. 31 letter.

    Rahimov called for “everybody in and around AIBA” to respect the regulations and wait for this date to comment on who could be running for which positions. “Let’s not start to let speculation interfere or dominate our democratic process,” he says.

    IOC Rejects Rahimov Background

    A source in Lausanne familiar with the machinations involving AIBA tells ATR that an AIBA led by Rahimov is “not tenable” and that the IOC President Thomas Bach will come down hard on AIBA if Rahimov were to be elected.

    “It’s not good for the sport and not good for the sports movement,” the source said. “The main purpose is to protect the sport and athletes.”

    Boxing’s exclusion from the Tokyo Olympics remains “the nuclear option of last resort”. But the IOC could deploy a range of other options to sanction the federation, including freezing all financial support and severing contact at working levels.

    Gafur Rahkimov in Lausanne earlier this year (AIBA)
    Rahimov was installed as Interim AIBA president in January. The 67 year old was the most senior vice president of the federation, making him eligible to fill the vacancy that resulted when C.K. Wu was forced to resign in late 2017. With the federation close to bankruptcy, Wu was pushed out after being elected 12 years ago as a reform candidate, at that time rescuing AIBA from another leadership crisis.

    A stalwart supporter of boxing in Asia, Rahimov has a reputation outside sport the IOC finds troubling. The Uzbek born businessman is on a list of individuals from the U.S. Treasury Department banned from travel to the U.S. over alleged ties to organized crime. Rahimov has hired an attorney in Washington, D.C. to press for his removal from the ban. In 2000, Rahimov was denied a visa to attend the Sydney Olympics, Australian authorities citing organized crime links. Rahimov denies any wrongdoing and has never been arrested.

    Election Details Needed

     The deadline to file for the AIBA election is Sept. 23. An elections commission, yet to be named, will review the candidates for their eligibility. The official list is promised Oct. 3, one month before the vote at the Moscow AIBA Congress.

    So far, only one other candidate has declared, Asian Boxing Confederation president Serik Konakbayev. He needs to obtain the support of 20 national boxing federations, as does Rahimov, to qualify for election.

    Sources tell ATR that the IOC President Bach is campaigning privately to keep Rahmov from being elected. The Olympic Charter requires autonomy in the governance of the international federations. But as members of the Olympic Movement, federations and their leaders are also subject to rulings of the IOC Ethics Commission.

    The AIBA election process does face a potential hitch. ATR has learned that Rahimov is seeking to remove Y.S. Chang as chair of the AIBA Ethics Commission, which supervises the vote. A ballot has been mailed to the 20 members of the AIBA Executive Committee. AIBA says that the IOC objects to Chang, who was chosen by the EC in July. An elections commission needs to be in place by next week to review the candidacies.

    Rahimov Election Could Trigger Solution

    Should Rahimov win election in November, the IOC has few options left to take against AIBA. IOC funding has already been cutoff. Communications between the IOC and AIBA are limited to discussions resolving outstanding issues.

    Thomas Bach at an IOC Press Conference (ATR)
    AIBA sources tell ATR that they believe the IOC will not deliver on its threat to cut boxing from Tokyo. They say that given the IOC’s actions allowing Russian athletes to compete in the most recent Olympics, the IOC will not penalize boxers training for Tokyo 2020.

    The IOC could withdraw recognition of the federation, a move that would require the formation of a disciplinary commission and a vote by the IOC Session. The earliest that would come is September 2019.

    Such an unprecedented move would force the formation of a new federation, a process that would be complicated and controversial.

    But the whole matter may be quickly resolved by Rahimov if he is elected. There’s talk that that Rahimov’s candidacy has turned into a power play to keep his rival from Kazakhstan from winning the presidency.

    Assuming Konakbayev loses to Rahimov or that he doesn’t he doesn’t qualify for the election, Rahimov could stand down from the AIBA presidency the day after the election.

    While that dramatic move may mollify the IOC, more tribulations in the governance of the federation are not likely to provide the stability the IOC is demanding.

    Reported by Mark Bisson and Ed Hula.

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