HOW far will AIBA test the patience of the International Olympic Committee? The IOC had made it clear that electing Gafur Rakhimov as their permanent president was a step too far, reserving the right to expel boxing from the Olympic Games as soon as Tokyo 2020. That threat was clear.
There was a way for AIBA to step back. Initially Rakhimov was place on the election ballot unopposed. But after appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, Serik Konakbayev had been allowed to stand against him in the election. That was a way for AIBA to move back from the crisis point. Yet on November 3, at the AIBA Congress in Moscow, AIBA members voted to make Rakhimov president. Rakhimov received 86 votes, a “convincing majority” over opponent Konakbayev.
Rakhimov has been sanctioned by the United States Treasury department, describing him as “one of Uzbekistan’s leading criminals”. He denies allegations of wrongdoing and is appealing to be removed from the sanctions list. But the IOC has repeatedly emphasised their extreme concern at Rakhimov taking over AIBA permanently.
Boxing could be thrown out of the Olympic Games, or the IOC could refuse to recognise AIBA and create a new body to administer Olympic boxing.
A spokesman for the IOC told Inside the Games: “There are issues of grave concern with AIBA regarding judging, finance, and the anti- doping programme, and with governance – which includes but is not limited to the election of the AIBA President.
“It should also be noted that any further actions by the IOC will be taken not simply on decisions and statements by AIBA, but also by the successful implementation of such decisions and a clear roadmap for long term sustainable reform of the Federation.”
The IOC will make efforts to protect the athletes and have a boxing tournament in 2020. But that may not be possible. That is by no means guaranteed. All the IOC’s previous sanctions remain in place, including freezing all contacts with AIBA except those on a working level necessary to implement IOC decisions and reserving the right to expel boxing from the Olympic programme.
Nevertheless Rakhimov said, “Today has been a great day for AIBA and it represents an important step forward for boxing. I am honored to have been elected as the President of AIBA and I want to thank the AIBA family for their trust and for allowing me to continue leading this great organization. I am confident that, together with my new AIBA Executive Committee members, the AIBA staff and the national federations, we will be able to continue on the progress made in bringing boxing into a brand new era.”
Olympic boxing remains in utter meltdown. Over halfway through the Olympic cycle, the men’s weight divisions that would be contested at Tokyo have not been confirmed, if boxing is even still an Olympic sport by then, nor has the Olympic qualification route been confirmed.