BOXING has been facing the very real risk of being excluded from the Olympic Games. It will stay in the programme for Tokyo 2020, but the International Olympic Committee is set to suspend recognition of the sport’s beleaguered governing body AIBA.
AIBA has faced a host of issues, around its governance, officiating, notoriously so at Rio 2016, financial stability and more. The International Olympic Committee launched an inquiry into AIBA. That began in November last year and finally reported back to the IOC’s Executive Board on Wednesday (May 22). In light of those findings, the IOC Executive Board has recommended AIBA itself be suspended from administering the Olympic sport. The decision will need to be confirmed in the IOC session that will take place June 24-26
An AIBA delegation had emerged from a meeting with the IOC’s inquiry on Monday hopeful, maintaining that for AIBA there had been “significant progress in regards to finance, governance and refereeing and judging. AIBA provided the committee with insights into its complete transformation of the organisation.”
Mohamed Moustahsane, who has taken over as AIBA President after Gafur Rakimov, a controversial appointment, stepped aside, said,“We have done everything in our power to work with the IOC and all of our Olympic Partners, and we remain optimistic about the future of Olympic Boxing and AIBA’s ability safeguard this great sport.”
But they have not appeased the IOC. They ruled this week that AIBA had not made sufficient progress and would no longer be recognised as the body to administer Olympic boxing. That will be reviewed, so AIBA does have a route back into the fold, but only after Tokyo 2020 and clearly further improvements will have to be made. But the IOC has indicated that they still wish boxing to feature at the next Olympic Games, which is now just over a year away.
“Today’s decision was taken in the interest of the athletes and the sport of boxing. We want to ensure that the athletes can live their dream and participate in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 while drawing the necessary consequences for AIBA following the recommendations of the Inquiry Committee. At the same time, we offer a pathway back to lifting the suspension, but there needs to be further fundamental change”, said IOC President Thomas Bach [pictured above].
It means another body will have to run the boxing event. Who that could be is unclear, there have been no similar tournaments conducted outside of the auspices of AIBA boxing. Referees and judges will still need to come from somewhere. Urgently for the boxers there needs to be clarity on what the qualification process would be. No events have been confirmed officially as qualifiers, not even the World championships which will take place later this year.
The IOC has set up a special task force to address this, which will be chaired by Morinari Watanabe, an IOC Member and President of the International Gymnastic Federation. The task force will have to deliver qualification tournaments between January 2020 and May 2020 and the Olympic boxing tournament itself. It will have to confirm a qualification system, defining the categories for all events. There will be eight male and five female divisions but the actual weights will need to be confirmed as well as the number of quota places for men and women. The IOC do have a clear emphasis on gender equality.
AIBA itself will remain under scrutiny. In a statement the IOC noted: “The evolution of AIBA’s situation and progress towards compliance with the Olympic Charter and the IOC Code of Ethics are monitored through a special monitoring committee which consist of the members of the former Inquiry Committee.” It will have to satisfy the IOC’s requirements if it is to return as the governing body for Olympic boxing.
This decision is the latest in a series of tumultuous events, overshadowing even the mysterious offer from Russia’s Umar Kremlev to wipe out $16 million of AIBA’s debt. That would need due diligence if AIBA were to accept such a proposition.
How AIBA will cope in reaction to today’s ruling from the Executive Board remains to be seen. Whether AIBA might now consider making a legal challenge to the process the IOC has gone through to reach its verdict is unclear.
But there will be relief for the sport as a whole that 286 Olympic places will be available to boxers at Tokyo 2020. Who’s going to fill them, and how they’re going to get there, that is what we must find out next.