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Boxing to remain Olympic sport for Tokyo but IOC intend to banish its broken governing body

‘Today’s decision was taken in the interest of the athletes and the sport of boxing,’ IOC president Thomas Bach said in a statement.

Michael Conlan accosts the judges after his highly contentious defeat to Vladimir Nikitin at Rio 2016.
Michael Conlan accosts the judges after his highly contentious defeat to Vladimir Nikitin at Rio 2016.

BOXING IS SET to retain its place in the Olympics for the Tokyo Games next year, but its governing body will likely be stripped of its right to organise both the event itself and most of its qualification process.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) executives recommended on Wednesday that the IOC suspend its recognition of the International Boxing Association (AIBA) “due to the ongoing seriousness of the issues in the areas of finance, governance, ethics and refereeing and judging”, and AIBA’s “lack of satisfactory progress” in these areas since 2017.

The recommendation is almost certain to be signed off in full by IOC members at a session between 24-26 June.

It followed a prolonged investigation into alleged mismanagement and corruption at the heart of AIBA, which reentered public consciousness following a number of highly dubious decisions — including Michael Conlan’s defeat to Russia’s Vladimir Nikitin — at Rio 2016, and the subsequent suspension of 36 officials amid allegations of bout-fixing.

“Today’s decision was taken in the interest of the athletes and the sport of boxing,” IOC president Thomas Bach said in a statement.

The Olympic chief said the IOC wanted to ensure that boxers “can live their dream and participate in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020,” while ensuring that AIBA faced “the necessary consequences” over its conduct. He added that the IOC would “offer a pathway back to lifting the suspension, but there needs to be further fundamental change” made by AIBA.

Kelly Harrington is greeted by her parents Yvonne and Christy Lightweight world champion Kellie Harrington and her Irish team-mates can rest easy over boxing's Olympic future. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Formed in 1946, AIBA has overseen decades of signature Olympic moments, including the 1960 gold medal win in Rome by Cassius Clay, later known as Muhammad Ali.

But its reputation has been tarnished in recent years as it careened from crisis to crisis.

Relations between AIBA and the IOC took a sharp downward turn following the 2016 Rio Games.

An internal investigation by AIBA raised deeper questions about the judging in Rio, with particular suspicion falling on a French official.

Then, in 2017, AIBA executives forced out the body’s president C.K. Wu amid claims of multi-million dollar accounting fraud.

Wu, a Taiwanese national, denied wrongdoing and remains a member of the IOC, an indication that he retains the support of senior Olympic officials.

Wu was ultimately replaced by the controversial Uzbek businessman Gafur Rakhimov, who the US Treasury Department has linked to “transnational criminal organisations”.

Rakhimov vehemently rejects such charges and insists the allegations against him are “politically motivated lies”.

Rakhimov stepped down in March, while the IOC audit into AIBA’s affairs was ongoing.

He was replaced as interim president by Moroccan doctor Mohamed Moustahsane — the fourth head of AIBA in 18 months.

Imago 20181115 Gafur Rakhimov stood down as AIBA president in March. Source: Imago/PA Images

Audit firm Deloitte, which led the AIBA probe on behalf of the IOC, submitted a list of 41 questions to the boxing federation on subjects ranging from finances, governance and ethics to anti-doping, refereeing and judging.

The probe determined that AIBA has made “a lack of satisfactory progress,” in resolving its issues, the IOC said Wednesday.

Before the announcement, AIBA’s leadership had insisted that the organisation has met all the requirements stipulated by the IOC.

The governing body’s chief executive Tom Virgets told AFP this month that the organisation had “done everything that has been asked by the IOC”.

“Every single document asked, we produced, every single requirement we have met, including our president self-suspending,” he said, referring to Rakhimov’s departure.

However, the IOC will next month vote on whether or not they take issues into their own hands.

The Olympic governing body pledged that there would be a qualification process put in place independent of AIBA between January and May 2020 to ensure boxing was featured in Tokyo.

© — AFP 2019, with reporting from Gavan Casey

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