Boxing body faces Olympic inquiry team before Tokyo ruling
GENEVA (AP) — The embattled amateur boxing federation faces an Olympic inquiry on Monday fearing it could be punished for forcing out a longtime IOC member as its president.
For the first time in a six-month probe, International Boxing Association (AIBA) officials will sit down with the three-member investigation panel. It will wrap a six-month probe of AIBA’s reformed leadership, finances, judging and refereeing of bouts, and report on Wednesday to the IOC.
The International Olympic Committee executive board is expected to take AIBA out of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics boxing tournaments, and organize them on their own.
“We have got probably two hours to explain to a committee about thousands of documents,” AIBA executive director Tom Virgets told The Associated Press, questioning how Monday’s session could lead to an “informed decision” by the IOC board less than 48 hours later.
It is unclear if the inquiry team — led by board member Nenad Lalovic, the Olympic wrestling body’s president — will recommend specific next steps.
“We have grave concerns about my partner (the IOC) during this whole process,” Virgets said, suggesting the IOC is still unhappy at AIBA ousting “one of their own” as president.
During the 11-year AIBA presidency of C.K. Wu, an IOC member since 1988, doubts were expressed over financial management and the integrity of Olympic bout results.
The IOC increased scrutiny after Wu resigned in 2017 under pressure from AIBA member federations. It opened the inquiry within weeks of interim president Gafur Rakhimov of Uzbekistan being formally elected last November, and barred AIBA officials from contacting Tokyo organizers.
Rakhimov is on a U.S. Treasury Department sanctions list for suspected links to an organized crime group in former Soviet Union republics involved in heroin trafficking. He denies any wrongdoing.
Rakhimov stepped aside from AIBA in March to help persuade the IOC inquiry of boxing’s good faith.
This “self-suspension” matched the actions of two senior IOC members — Kuwaiti power broker Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah and former board member Patrick Hickey of Ireland — who were charged or arrested in criminal investigations.
“(Rakhimov) did the exact same thing their people did,” Virgets said at AIBA headquarters in the Olympic home city Lausanne, praising his “great leadership” in correcting the troubled finances.
“AIBA has been broken and now we have fixed it,” the American official said, citing turmoil under Wu ahead of the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. “It was allowed to go on for many, many years without this (type of) evaluation. We are 100 times better than we were in 2015.”
On Saturday, AIBA’s executive committee meets in Lausanne to consider an offer from Russian member Umar Kremlev to clear its $16 million debts, and weigh legal options.
An IOC decision to exclude AIBA from Tokyo, and oversee its own Olympic qualifiers and medal tournaments, could be challenged at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Virgets, a former United States Naval Academy athletic official, said that is ideally “not the way I want to do business.”
“Nobody wins,” he said, “when everyone airs their dirty laundry,” though he believes AIBA’s legal arguments would be strong.
“We want a level playing field. If we are wrong, if we fail to reach the standard, then shame on us. But what were the metrics? What was the bar?”