IOC members deliver KO to AIBA for Tokyo 2020
By Jonathan Rest
AIBA's future has been thrown into serious doubt after International Olympic Committee members today unanimously approved the suspension of boxing's governing body from any involvement at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, in doing so backing the creation of a special taskforce to organise the qualification events and the games time competition.
The IOC executive board last month agreed to suspend AIBA, and while this required the approval of the IOC session, meeting in Lausanne this week, opposition was never considered likely.
AIBA has called an emergency executive committee meeting in Geneva tomorrow, at which immediate future will be discussed.
The IOC has said it will review the suspension of AIBA after the Tokyo Olympics, but AIBA general secretary Tom Virgets said last week that the federation is on the verge of collapse.
Suspension means AIBA will miss out on its projected $17.5-million share of Tokyo 2020 commercial revenue, further adding to its financial woes (it has debts of around SFr17 million ($17 million).
Prior to the IOC session vote (a show of hands) on AIBA's suspension, Nenad Lalovic, the Serbian IOC member who led an inquiry into AIBA, delivered a damning report on the federation, claiming its debt could reach as much as $29 million and saying it had failed to reform at the top.
A key factor in the IOC's decision has been the continued influence of the controversial Gafur Rahimov, AIBA's president from Uzbekistan who stepped aside in March.
Rahimov 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,” allegations he steadfastly denies.
Rahimov's election six months ago "exposes the IOC, the Olympic Movement stakeholders and its partners, to unacceptable reputational, legal and financial risks,'' the inquiry report had said last month.With the suspension now formally approved, the new ad-hoc Boxing Task Force will get to work to ensure the delivery of the Tokyo 2020 qualification events for boxing and the competition at next year’s games.
It is led by Morinari Watanabe, the IOC member from Japan, and president of FIG, gymnastics’ governing body, and also comprises: Marius Vizer, the president of the International Judo Federation; William Blick, the IOC member from Uganda; Willi Kaltshmitt, the long-serving IOC member from Guatemala; and Aya Mahmoud Medancy, a former modern pentathlete from Egypt, who will offer an athlete's voice.
The IOC executive board’s decision in May to suspend AIBA followed a six-month review of the organisation, after the IOC had frozen all preparations for the 2020 Olympics boxing tournament, including ticket sales, approval and implementation of a qualification system, test event planning and finalisation of the competition schedule, pending an inquiry into alleged governance and financial irregularities.
There were also issues related to ethics and refereeing and judging, which had been identified as early as 2017, the IOC said, with "a lack of satisfactory progress" since.
In a letter sent last week to members of AIBA's executive committee, seen by Sportcal, Virgets warned the organisation will be insolvent if IOC members derecognise the governing body.
He also confirmed he would be leaving AIBA soon, calling it "the correct thing to do", after failing in his mandate to keep the organisation involved for Tokyo 2020.
In the letter, Virgets wrote: “In my opinion, the decisions made by the IOC were clearly designed to bankrupt AIBA. Every source of income that AIBA had going forward was taken away.”
He said the reduction in staff would make it "very difficult" for AIBA to operate, adding: "Considering the fact that the inquiry commission stated that AIBA was not financially fit enough to do this with its current staff, it will be very difficult to convince the IOC that AIBA can perform all of its functions with a significantly reduced staff. It will require a significantly large amount of volunteers. However, these volunteers will need to be individuals other than most of you, as the IOC will find many to be unacceptable going forward."