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  • Russia Defends AIBA Chief as Election Intrigue Swirls


    (ATR) The IOC is accused of meddling in the affairs of AIBA, as Gafur Rahimov plots to tighten his grip on the boxing presidency.
    Gafur Rahimov is running unopposed for AIBA presidency (ATR)

    The IOC on Thursday reiterated its threat to expel boxing from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic program unless it fixes governance issues. 

    Rahimov is unopposed for the AIBA presidency but the IOC is refusing to accept him as head of the federation. The IOC yesterday said it would not accredit Rahimov or family members for the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires, starting Saturday. It’s part of a freeze in communications with the AIBA leadership.

    The Uzbek-born Russian businessman, interim boxing chief since January, is on a U.S. Treasury Department list for alleged connections to Russian transnational criminal organizations. 

    On Friday, the IOC’s intervention, in the form of an Oct. 3 letter from its director general Christophe de Kepper, came under fire from Russian Boxing Federation secretary general Umar Kremlev. 

    While the IOC is unable to interfere in the election of a federation due to their autonomy under the Olympic Charter, the Russian boxing chief says the IOC overstepped the mark.

    “By sending their threats to the national boxing federations, the IOC is violating the Olympic Charter, according to which AIBA members are empowered to elect the organization’s president themselves,” he said in a statement on Friday.

    “It is unacceptable to put any pressure on AIBA or its members, trying to influence the results of independent elections."

    Kremlev added: “As a national federation we have only one goal - to develop boxing as one of the most popular sports in the world, one among the first ones included in the Olympic program. There should be no political issues in sports. 

    “So we hope that the IOC will continue to follow the Charter and would stop to interfere in the independent organization operations as well as trying to impose its policy on the national federations.”

    The IOC Ethics and Compliance officer warned AIBA in May that Rahimov was unsuited to serve as AIBA president as he is on a U.S. Treasury list for his association with Russian organized crime figures. This prohibits his travel to the U.S. and many other nations, such as Switzerland, where AIBA is headquartered. Rahimov denies criminal activity and has hired a U.S. attorney to seek his removal from the list. 

    AIBA elections are less than a month away (AIBA)
    De Kepper’s letter to the federations this week says the IOC is awaiting final reports from AIBA due Nov. 12 before taking additional action. The IOC did not hold back in its statement issued on the same day, expressing “ongoing extreme concern with the grave situation” surrounding AIBA’s governance and leadership. 

    The IOC repeated its warning that boxing could be stripped from the Tokyo Olympics. But Around the Rings is told that members of the AIBA leadership do not believe the IOC would carry through with its threat due to boxing’s long-standing as a modern Olympic sport.

    Rahimov’s election is now less than a month away. Chair of the election committee Jost Schmid said in a statement on Wednesday that “the entire process has been meticulously reviewed and conducted in full independence”.

    With Franco Falcinelli, president of the European Confederation of Boxing, now the target of a motion to strip him of his standing as an AIBA vice president in retaliation for his support for Serik Konakbayev, the potential Kazakh opponent to Rahimov, the interim boxing president is said to be clearing a path to maintain a stranglehold on power.

    The federation is proposing a change in its statutes to be voted on next month. They would allow the AIBA chief to take a leave of absence at his or her discretion with an interim president taking control. Under the change, the elected president could return to office within a year. 

    ATR is told Rahimov is poised to step aside from the presidency within days of the Moscow election once the IOC takes action against his election. The IOC restated this week it would be prepared to kick boxing out of the Olympics if necessary.

    “Because of IOC punishment, he will have the pressure from national federations. Thus he will temporarily resign to avoid the storm and come back later,” the source said.

    If this scenario played out, AIBA vice-president Osvaldo Bisbal from Argentina is tipped to become the second interim president of the federation in the space of a year.

    Bisbal served as president of his country’s boxing federation from 1991 until 2014, when he was elected AIBA vice-president. A member of the AIBA executive committee since 1998, Bisbal was an technical official at the last five summer Olympics. He was a referee and judge at the Olympics in Los Angeles, Seoul, Barcelona and Atlanta, according to his AIBA biography.

    AIBA this week provided its 203 member federations with information about the Congress.

    “This is a very important step for the new AIBA. We have been working hard to establish a well-planned, transparent and on-time system, of which we can be proud,” AIBA’s executive director Tom Virgets said.

    Reported by Mark Bisson

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