(ATR) The new president of Olympic boxing federation AIBA is keeping a low profile after his election this weekend.
Gafur Rakhimov was elected to a four-year term in Moscow
Gafur Rakhimov was the decisive choice of the AIBA Congress in Moscow, defeating his sole opponent by wide margin.
The victory came despite Rakhimov being named on a list of suspected organized crime figures in Russia issued by the U.S. Treasury Department last December. He is barred from travel to the U.S. as well as some other countries. Rakhimov, an Uzbek-born businessman, dismisses the allegations as a political scheme and says he’s appealing to have his name removed.
Meanwhile, Rakhimov will not be in Lausanne along with other international federation presidents this week for the annual IF Forum, the ultimate networking event for federation leaders.
Nor will he be visiting the headquarters of AIBA at Maison du Sport Internationale, although he did make a brief visit in July.
No meeting either with the one person Rakhimov needs to convince of his worthiness to lead the boxing federation, IOC President Thomas Bach.
An IOC spokesman tells Around the Rings
that no meeting is being planned by Bach with Rakhimov. He says previous IOC actions against AIBA remain. That means no communications, except for staff contact to resolve a list of 17 issues raised by the IOC.
"We will continue to work together with the IOC headquarters,” Rakhimov said at a pres conference after the vote.
“Maybe we will find an arrangement. If not, we will think what to do to keep boxing safe,” he said.
AIBA executive director Tom Virgets says he hopes the two men can meet.
“He looks forward to a meeting and hopes that the IOC will show him the same courtesy as they have shown the other AIBA Vice Presidents and meet with him,” says Virgets. He is referring to a meeting that had been planned in September between IOC staff and the five AIBA vice presidents. The meeting was scheduled and then canceled, and was meant to explain to the vice presidents how seriously the IOC regarded the situation with AIBA.
And while nothing is planned between the IOC and Rakhimov at this time, there’s talk of a get together in Lausanne with Sirek Konakbayev, the loser in the presidential bout.
November 13 Deadline Looms
Virgets will be meeting with IOC staff this week along the permitted lines of communication, reviewing the results of the AIBA Congress as they apply to the IOC’s worries. He says that AIBA will meet the Nov. 13 deadline set by the IOC for a response to the memo in May from the IOC president’s office. The three-page letter demands action in governance, finance, ethics, anti-doping and referees and judges.
The IOC Executive Board is set to review the responses of AIBA when it meets in Tokyo next month.
Satisfied with the report, the IOC may restore funding cut off last year. Unhappy,
president has indicated the status of boxing at the Tokyo Olympics and future Games could be at risk.
Reputational Risk Assessment
The most intractable issue could be the breach between the IOC and AIBA over Rakhimov. Bach believes the AIBA leader presents a risk to reputation of all Olympic sports, not just boxing. The IOC Ethics and Compliance Officer months ago advised AIBA that Rakhimov, who’s been interim president since January, would not be suitable to be elected president.
The reputational issues involving Rakhimov at AIBA are believed to have extended even to its bank in Lausanne. Correspondence from the bank to AIBA just a couple of months after Rakhimov took office informs that its accounts and safe deposit box would be closed. The letter seen by ATR says that the activities of the federation “posed a reputational risk to our bank”.
The federation pretty much thumbed its nose at the IOC threats
Serik Konakbayev, second place finisher in the presidential election. He was also a silver medalist at the 1980 Olympics.
with a show of overwhelming support for Rakhimov, 86 votes to 48.
“We’ve made a history,” boasts Russian Boxing Federation Secretary General Umar Kremlev.
“All the national federations are united, they’ve chosen one strong president - Mr. Rakhimov. I want to congratulate him with the convincing victory,” Kremlev says in a statement to ATR
Rakhimov clearly has his loyalists. He’s been associated with AIBA for more than 20 years. The go-to guy for the federation in January when the federation needed an interim president, Rakhimov appears to have stanched certain bankruptcy for the federation in the meantime.
Rakhimov has mentioned that to placate IOC concerns he would be willing to step aside. Under the rules of the federation the AIBA president can take a leave from the position for any reason, for up to one year. It seems dubious that the IOC would accept such a ruling.
“We are not stupid. This takes us for fools. He can pull the strings but we should accept it?,” an IOC official wonders.
No Boxing in Tokyo?
The IOC could be preparing to launch an AIBA-free boxing in Tokyo as part of the ultimate penalty if the federation is intransigent.
“Whatever the results of the deliberations of the IOC Executive Board, we will continue to make all efforts to protect the athletes and to have a boxing tournament at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020,” said IOC spokesman Mark Adams after the federation vote.
With that said, it would appear that further sanctions would apply directly to Rakhimov and AIBA. The IOC could ban AIBA from Tokyo, similar to what happened with the Youth Olympic Games last month in Buenos Aires. Virgets along with referees and judges from AIBA were accredited, but not Rakhimov or any other AIBA leaders.
If the IOC wants to dispose of the federation in its entirety there is a process that could take a year or more to complete. Then there would be the question of whether a new federation could be formed out of the ashes of the old.
Reported by Ed Hula.
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