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  • AIBA Collapse Compared to Iraq Demise


    08/08/19

    (ATR) Leaders of suspended Olympic boxing federation AIBA will meet by the end of the month to select its fifth president since 2017.

    The departure of Mohamed Moustahsane, who took the post in March, is yet another in the string of leadership failures the federation has endured. The Moroccan followed Gafur Rakhimov, who quit in the face of controversy over alleged links to Russian organized crime.

    Mohamed Moustahsane will resign as AIBA interim president this month. (ATR)
    In June, the IOC hit AIBA with unprecedented sanctions against a federation. Based on a report by a special inquiry into the problems facing AIBA, the IOC stripped the federation of any responsibility for organizing the boxing tournament in Tokyo, including qualification. Suspended too are millions of dollars in payments to AIBA from the IOC for the sport’s share of TV revenue from the Olympics.

    The financial situation for AIBA is precarious. As of June, the federation had about $400,000 in cash with debts as high as $20 million.

    One member of the AIBA executive tells Around the Rings he and his colleagues are looking at creating a foundation which would allow contributions to rebuild the federation. He says the foundation would be constituted under Swiss law, which presumably would allow AIBA to open a bank account in Switzerland again.

    Last year, AIBA’s bank in Switzerland closed the federation account, citing the reputational risk of then-president Rakhimov. Since then, AIBA’s dwindling treasury has been held by a bank in the Balkans.

    Executive director Tom Virgets had offered his resignation in the wake of the damning IOC report, but he has agreed to stay for now.

    The lifelong coach and sports administrator from the U.S. likens the situation to the chaos that broke out in Iraq with the collapse of the reign of Saddam Hussein.

    “Saddam Hussein was disliked by all of the world powers and the forces. Led by the USA, [they] decided that a leadership change had to happen. When that change did not happen internally, the USA used its power to force the change,” Virgets explains.

    “However, the unintended consequences of that action have de-stabilized the entire Middle East region and since 2002, left Iraq void of a leader that can unite the country.

    “AIBA is in a similar position. The IOC decided that AIBA must have a leadership change. The AIBA President’s alleged reputation was not in line with the IOC’s Olympism philosophy, and there was a feeling that his presence could adversely affect commerce.

    “When the change did not happen internally, the IOC used its power to force the change. Again, the unintended consequences of that action have de-stabilized the entire boxing community and left AIBA void of a leader that is capable of uniting the organization.

    “Like them or hate them, both Hussein and Rakhimov were leaders. Under their leadership Iraq and AIBA were united. In AIBA’s case, good reforms were also being made internally. With Hussein gone, Iraq has splintered into many tribes trying to exercise power over each other.

    AIBA Executive Director Tom Virgets. (ATR)
    “With Rahimov gone, there is a leadership vacuum in AIBA and in its absence, the organization has splintered into its own tribal culture. To date, no one has demonstrated the qualities necessary to competently lead and unite the organization.

    “Currently, we are splintered,” Virgets says.

    The rules of the federation require that an interim president must be one of the five continental vice presidents. Supposedly three of them are said to be willing to serve, from Europe, Africa and Oceania.

    Despite his despair, Virgets says he believes relations with the IOC will improve.

    “I am optimistic that with IOC lines of communication opening, and with a spirit of partnership emerging, together AIBA and the IOC will be able to identify a competent and effective AIBA leader who will be able to unite the AIBA family and also be accepted by the IOC.

    “Working together in partnership with the IOC, AIBA can overcome the obstacles,” says Virgets.

    Reported by Ed Hula. For general comments or questions, click here.
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