Beleaguered AIBA frets over completing Olympic qualification process
AIBA, the beleaguered governing body for boxing in the Olympic Games, is concerned that an International Olympic Committee-imposed freeze on all preparations for the Olympic boxing tournament in Tokyo in 2020 means that it will be unable to complete the qualifying process for the games, even if the freeze is eventually lifted.
Last month, the IOC launched an inquiry into the “governance, ethics and financial management” of AIBA, while imposing the freeze on Olympic preparations including ticket sales, approval and implementation of a qualification system, test event planning and finalisation of the competition schedule.
Tom Virgets, AIBA’s executive director, told AFP: “We certainly are anxious to receive direction as we owe it to our athletes to provide them with a roadmap for the Olympic qualification process.
“We are already behind schedule, and every day that these operational details are delayed impact the ability for us to provide our athletes with the quality events that they deserve.”
The freeze left boxing’s place in the Tokyo games in extreme jeopardy, with the IOC saying that the inquiry would be conducted by a three-person committee led by Nenad Lalovic, the president of United World Wrestling, and himself an IOC executive board member.
However, in a bid to avoid punishing the boxers, the IOC lifted a freeze on Olympic Solidarity payments to them, but said that payments must be made directly via the national Olympic committees of the athletes concerned and not through either AIBA or boxing’s national governing bodies.
Last month, Kit McConnell, the IOC’s sports director, said that the IOC’s continuing financial concerns relate to “challenges over debt and AIBA’s ability to operate as a going concern.”
He added: “The auditors repeatedly highlighted some areas where there was incomplete information. There were elements of the audited and financial reports where information was not included and not available via AIBA’s website. The executive board also took note of media reports that AIBA has challenges opening and maintaining bank accounts.”
As for the areas of governance and ethics, the IOC said in a statement: “Gafur Rakhimov’s [AIBA’s president] designation as a key member and associate of a transnational organised criminal network by the US Treasury Department creates uncertainty about his role as president of AIBA.”
Rakhimov is listed by the US Department of the Treasury as “one of Uzbekistan’s leading criminals,” and has been accused by the US authorities of being “an important person involved in the heroin trade.”
Nevertheless, McConnell said that “the IOC executive board stresses that all efforts will to be made to protect athletes and to ensure that an Olympic boxing competition can take place.”
Asked if this meant that the IOC could seek to replace AIBA with an alternative organisation, if AIBA fails to satisfy its concerns by the time of the session next June, McConnell said: “It’s premature to talk about other models. AIBA remains recognised, and only the session has the authority to withdraw that recognition. Let’s see what happens in the course of this inquiry.”